Bears fans should know the drill by now. Any time a name-brand quarterback is even on the periphery of becoming available, we have to talk about them. Rules are rules, my friends.
So let’s talk about Dak Prescott.
After 16 months of negotiations getting nowhere on the extension front, ESPN’s Todd Archer wonders if a parting of ways is on the horizon after this season. In case you missed it, Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys failed to agree on a contract extension before last week’s deadline for Franchise-Tagged players. That means Prescott will play on the tag this season, which will pay him $31.4 million. And let’s not get it twisted … that’s a hefty chunk of change. However, it’s obviously not the multi-year security deal for which Prescott was hoping.
The impasse comes as Prescott, who turns 27 in nine days, is reportedly seeking a deal of no more than four years. This would position Prescott to land another large contract after his age 31 season. On the other side of the negotiating table, Dallas prefers a five-year pact, which would keep Prescott in Dallas through his age 32 season. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been known to get deals done with the biggest stars, but doing so with a player at the most important position in the game has proven to be a challenge with Prescott in a way it wasn’t with previously Troy Aikman or Tony Romo.
With that as our table setter, would the Bears be a team with interest in landing him?
Sure, there are reasons that makes sense. In fact, there’s already a buzz in the gambling community regarding Chicago being Prescott’s next landing spot. And remember, the Bears could lose Mitchell Trubisky (free agency) and Nick Foles (opt-out) at season’s end. Prescott is coming off his best statistical season (4,902 yards, 30 TDs, 99.7 passer rating) and was PFF’s 10th-highest-graded QB. Before the 2019 season, Prescott established a high level of competency, showed play-making ability, limited turnovers, and has proven to be durable (he hasn’t missed a game in his career). In short, Prescott represents a clear and unquestioned upgrade from Trubisky and Foles, all while still being in the prime years of his career.
A pursuit of Prescott makes sense, but leaves us wondering if the Bears could accommodate his contract demands.
The answer is “yes” … “kinda.”
GM Ryan Pace has spent a boatload of money to build this team. Forbes has the Bears’ estimated player expenses for the 2019 season at $271 million. OverTheCap.com has the team’s top-51 spending for 2020 at north of $189 million. Peeking into the 2021 calendar, OTC has the Bears already with an estimated $181 million in total cap liabilities. Spending the money isn’t an issue. However, spending wisely has been. If the Bears were to go all-in on Prescott, it could get costly. Spotrac’s calculated market value for Prescott calls for an average annual salary of $38.5 million – which would come out to $154 million over a four-year deal (which Prescott is rumored to prefer). Ultimately, that would mean a team with just $31.7 million in projected cap space for 2021 would have to make some serious cuts. That’s where the “kinda” comes into play.
Cutting a high-priced defensive player (or two, or failing to extend a guy like Allen Robinson) in order to bring in a quarterback upgrade feels a bit like robbing Peter to pay Paul. To that end, that’s where a potential Bears-Prescott deal gets dicey. For instance, would it be worth parting ways with Akiem Hicks (projected cap gain of $10.5 million) or Eddie Goldman ($5.8 million) and weakening your defensive line? Similarly, the Bears would have to ask if the juice is worth the squeeze if it means cutting ties with two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller ($11 million). Cutting Charles Leno Jr. ($6.2 million) or Bobby Massie ($5.4 million) would clear up space, but create immediate holes at tackle.
And even as we imaginarily clear room, we haven’t yet addressed re-signing Allen Robinson, the team’s best offensive player. In other words, we’re talking about sacrificing strengths and creating needs to hope that a roll of the dice pays off.
… and that’s before we get to compensation to acquire Prescott.
Could you imagine the Cowboys letting him walk away in free agency? Because I can’t. So that’s a factor.
The Bears have a need at the position, have shown a willingness to spend money under GM Ryan Pace, and Prescott’s situation could provide a unique opportunity to address a long-time problem without taking a major (risky) swing in the draft. And because Pace has pulled off crazier stunts before, I’ll say there is a non-zero percent that Prescott is the Bears’ QB in 2021. But that’s all anyone can say about it right now. There are many miles to go. But it’s on our radar.