Throughout the Cowboys’ years-long contract negotiation with Dak Prescott, inquiring minds knew Dallas’ delay of signing their young and increasingly expensive franchise QB would come back to bite them.
This offseason, despite recovering from a season-ending injury, Prescott exerted his leverage over America’s Team and forced the franchise to meet his contract demands and sign him to a whopping four-year, $160 million deal that pays him an NFL-high $75 million in 2021. That’s nearly $43 million more than the second-highest-paid player Trent Williams will pocket.
In fact, it’s so much that it could cost the same as a Super Bowl-worthy roster.
Don’t believe us? Below, we’ve drafted an entire starting offense and defense using players’ 2021 total cash earned, per Spotrac, with what we’ll call a “$75 million Prescott Salary Cap.”
In building the roster, we tried to shy away from cost-controlled rookie contracts, but some were, admittedly, too hard to pass up.
QB: Aaron Rodgers, $21.5 Million
It would’ve been too easy to pick a quarterback on a cost-controlled rookie contract, so instead, we find an incredible value in the reigning NFL MVP.
Aaron Rodgers, who was the story of the offseason, will pocket just $21.5 million in the fourth year of his $134 million contract. While there were reports that Rodgers wanted as much as $45 million per season from the Packers — and we don’t blame him — we’ll happily add him to our team at a fraction of the cost.
Rodgers would easily make our team an instant contender. And we surely wouldn’t kick a field goal down 14 points in a pivotal playoff game.
RB: Mike Davis, $3M
A late bloomer, Mike Davis was one of the pleasant surprises last year after taking over for an oft-injured Christian McCaffrey with the Panthers. Now, he’ll go to Carolina’s division rival as what appears to be the unquestioned starting running back with the Atlanta Falcons.
At just $3 million, Davis can be our three-down back who can contribute in the passing game, which is all we really care about.
WR: DK Metcalf, $912K
Wide receiver was slim pickens for affordable, veteran contracts so we decided to find a trio of receivers on incredibly cheap rookie contracts.
Perhaps with a little tutelage from Rodgers, Metcalf can be his younger, faster Davante Adams, which would make him the perfect No. 1 receiver for our squad.
WR: Terry McLaurin, $850K
We couldn’t help ourselves with Scary Terry McLaurin at well under $1 million. The former Ohio State product was one of the steals of the 2019 NFL Draft.
He’s emerged as one of the best young receivers in the league and would be an ideal complement to Metcalf on the outside. Can you imagine defenses trying to stop our two-headed monster? Well, we need a solid slot receiver, too.
WR: Diontae Johnson, $884K
Our two-headed monster at receiver is actually a three-headed beast.
Diontae Johnson might have a case of the dropsies, but receivers can only drop passes if they’re thrown the ball a lot. And if they get a ton of targets, that means they’re always open, so we’ll live with some drops from the Steelers’ top receiving threat.
Move over, Cowboys and Bengals. Metcalf, McLaurin, Johnson would give us the best receiving core in the NFL.
TE: Logan Thomas: $2.49M
The converted tight end broke out for the Washington Football Team last season and recently signed a three-year, $24 million contract extension, but that doesn’t kick in until 2022 so we’ll take the big savings.
Thomas continued to get better and better last year as one of the surprises of the season. Despite being on the wrong side of 30 now, he should improve as he’s still learning the nuances of the position.
LT: Andrew Whitworth $4M
As the general manager of this clear Super Bowl contender, we’ve built a solid group of skilled players, but this team will only go as far as its offensive line.
And we here at Lines certainly aren’t ageists, and our starting left tackle proves that point. The Rams starting left tackle will turn 40 this season. Of course, he isn’t quite as limber and agile as he once was, but Whitworth is still a solid blocker and can protect Rodgers’ blindside.
Of course, it’s easier to play left tackle with who we’ve selected to protect alongside him.
LG: Quenton Nelson $3.9M
Quenton Nelson will one day be the highest-paid guard — and potentially offensive lineman — in the NFL one day. But since that day hasn’t arrived, we’ll happily add his nearly $4 million salary to the ledger.
The mauler out of Notre Dame is a three-time First-team All-Pro and he’s only been in the league three seasons.
He’s the best guard in the league and just another piece in this burgeoning dynasty.
C: Justin Britt, $2M
RG: Wyatt Teller $2.2M
If Nelson is the best guard in the NFL then Wyatt Teller might just be second.
The Browns guard helped to completely transform the Browns into a big bruising offense that loves to run the ball down team’s throats. He’d be a great fit on the offensive line at a little over $2 million.
RT: Tristan Wirfs $1.35M
The future All-Pro was one of the best rookies last season, helping to solidify the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl-winning offensive line.
He completes what would be arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.
Offensive total: $43.09M
With the offense complete, we’ve spent more than $43 million of our allotted $75 million. We’ll have to find some cheap contracts on defense. But we also need some stars, like our first defensive superstar.
Edge: T.J. Watt, $10.1M
Similar to the QB position, we wanted to find an underpaid elite player at edge rusher. We could’ve gone for someone like Nick Bosa or Chase Young for a slightly cheaper contract but we decided to pay up for T.J. Watt, who has become one of the league’s best pass rushers.
Watt has improved his sack total in all four seasons, tallying a career-high 15 in 2020.
Before he inevitably signs his $100+ million contract extension, we slot him in at over $10 million in 2021.
DL: Vita Vea, $2.5M
Good luck trying to run on Vita Vea and this team. When healthy, the Bucs’ behemoth of a defensive tackle completely changes how Tampa’s defense operates.
Vea might not have jaw-dropping numbers, but he’s a wrecking ball in the middle of a defensive line.
Hopefully, for $2.5 million, he’ll play more than the five games he appeared in last season.
DL: Justin Madubuike, $831K
At the other defensive tackle spot is one of the best rookies you might have never heard of.
2020 second-rounder Justin Madubuike started just three games last year, but he was impressive in his opportunities as a defensive tackle with some pass-rushing juice who could cut through and penetrate offensive lines.
He’d play in more than 10 games with us, that’s for sure.
Edge: Brian Burns, $1.7M
To round out our impressive defensive line is Carolina Panthers pass rusher Brian Burns. The athletic edge out of Florida State has quickly developed into one of the most feared sack artists in the NFL.
In his rookie season as a pass-rush specialist, Burns racked up 7.5 sacks and then followed it up with nine in 2020. It’d be a massive disappointment if he didn’t hit double-digits in Year 3.
At just 23, Burns might be the best pass rusher you haven’t heard of… until now.
LB: Devin Bush, $2.2M
In today’s NFL, a middle linebacker who can can cover tight ends and slot receivers while also being able to stop the run are becoming harder and harder to find.
Steelers linebacker Devin Bush might be the next great linebacker, and at more than $2 million, he’s a great fit in our increasingly snug salary cap.
Bush is coming off a season-ending injury, but he showed flashes of brilliance in his rookie season.
LB: Uchenna Nwosu, $1.2M
While he’s not a big name, Nwosu is an underrated player who has starter potential. And, more importantly, he’s affordable.
CB: Ahkello Witherspoon, $4M
While we could certainly add a young corner on a rookie contract here, our front office decided to snag the Seahawks’ newly signed defensive back.
Just 26, Witherspoon had a roller coaster career with the 49ers before joining the Seahawks. At his best, Witherspoon has the athleticism and size to be a shutdown corner. And he finished last season with multiple stellar performances.
He could be a steal at just $4 million in 2021.
CB: J.C. Jackson, $3.4M
The 25-year-old became a much more important piece of New England’s defense last year as he intercepted a team-high nine passes.
CB: L’Jarius Sneed, $780K
We couldn’t resist a value like L’Jarius Sneed. The Chiefs’ fourth-rounder in 2020 was one of the steals of the draft, intercepting three passes as a rookie in Kansas City.
He’ll continue to emerge as one of the better corners in the league.
FS: Anthony Harris, $4M
Anthony Harris might have lost a step, but in this loaded secondary, we can compensate for that.
After picking off a career-high six passes in 2019, Harris failed to record a single interception last season. The Eagles’ new safety will have plenty of opportunities on this defense.
SS: Jaquiski Tartt, $1.1M
We’re not just signing the 49ers’ strong safety for his name. The 29-year-old experienced a soft free-agent market after an injury-riddled 2020, which makes him a huge bargain at a tick over $1 million.
Tartt can play either safety position and is a great run defender from the secondary.
Defensive Total: $31.8M
Total Money Spent: $74.9M
We spent over $12 million more on offense, which isn’t a surprise. And it puts our combined total at $74.9 million.
Would you rather have this team or Dak Prescott? Leave a comment below with your answer.
Follow Lance Cartelli on Twitter
Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration