DALLAS — Being America's Team comes with a price, and at times it is a silly one.
Our national obsession with 24/7 coverage combined with our most popular sport being the only one that plays a limited schedule sets the stage for lots of NFL discussion that has nothing to do with games. Thus, we arrived at the sky-is-falling notion Monday that young Dak Prescott is looking to shatter the league's salary structure in seeking $40 million per season.
Keep in mind that the average salary for the top-paid quarterback tends to go up about $1 million with each new contract. Seattle's Russell Wilson sits atop the current list at $35 million. The likes of Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers fall in right behind him.
All of these are highly experienced quarterbacks. All have won Super Bowls. The notion that the greedy agents representing Prescott were going to blow by this figure by $5 million was absurd the minute it was made public Monday afternoon, which begs this question:
Why do the Cowboys keep beating up on their own players?
Can anyone else remember all the way back to July 26, the day Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed that Ezekiel Elliott was not in camp due to a contract dispute? Does anyone else remember Jerry saying there would be "no daily updates" on this going forward?
He's correct only in the fact they haven't quite been daily. But Jones has argued the Cowboys' side publicly numerous times since then, starting with his telling the world that teams don't need rushing leaders to win Super Bowls, an odd talking point given that all three of his Lombardi Trophy winners had exactly that with Emmitt Smith.
Then came the warnings that he would not be pressed into bringing this negotiation to a close even months into the season. There was the signing of Alfred Morris, the most tepid of warning shots fired if you are in Elliott's camp. Son Stephen jumped into the mix, reporting that the Cowboys had made offers to Elliott, Prescott and Amari Cooper that would rank each in the top five at their position.
That led to speculation from around the media world that Prescott already had rejected a $30 million-per-year proposal, given that Atlanta's Matt Ryan sits in the No. 5 spot at that figure. Now there are all sorts of ways to characterize contract offers — total package, guaranteed money, new money — so while it can be agreed that Prescott's team hasn't rushed to sign the Cowboys' offer, we really don't know exactly what it involves.
This was all blown away by the NFL Network report that Dak was, in fact, seeking $40 million, not $30 million.
So with virtually none of this information leaking from agents and all of it flowing out of Oxnard, why exactly are the Joneses so hell-bent on winning a public relations battle with players — two of whom are in camp and not holding out — that they have already won?
I doubt I need to remind Jerry or Stephen that this is Dallas, and fans still tend to perceive players seeking new deals as the greedier of the two sides. There's no question that the salary figures in today's professional sports are enormous. Each recently retired generation of players laments being born too soon. But fans seldom pay enough attention to the fact that the Cowboys (and 31 other teams) pocket $255 million in TV revenues each season before selling their first ticket, jersey or $12 beer. That's enough to pay all their players, all their coaches and all their training and sales staff.
There's no need to keep putting out information that paints the stars of this franchise as money-grubbing ingrates. League rules compel teams to spend to a certain level, so players seek their fair share.
When Prescott changed agents a year ago, it was a sign that he was going for big money, which is his right. The Cowboys almost certainly have added to his eventual total by waiting for Wilson, Carson Wentz and so many other quarterbacks to sign new deals this year, although it could be argued we might be talking about $1 million or so per season more.
It is not the end of the world for the Cowboys' 2019 season if the club and Prescott fail to reach a deal and he plays out the final year of his rookie contract at about $2 million this season. In that case, the worst thing that could happen for the Cowboys' payroll would be the best thing that could happen for the Cowboys' playoff record in a long, long time.
Tim Cowlishaw is a columnist for The Dallas Morning News/TNS.