SF 49ers must chase Cowboys QB Dak Prescott if available

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers could use an upgrade at quarterback. And if the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott is somehow available, he’s the ideal target.

The SF 49ers have cooly stated they “expect” Jimmy Garoppolo to be their starting quarterback in 2021.

Perhaps. But there are also reports the Niners could move on from Jimmy G this offseason if another option becomes available. That’s about as simple an assessment any team could make: Get better where and when you can.

Garoppolo might not be the long-term fixture of the franchise anyway. He’s missed the bulk of two out of three seasons with serious injuries, and it’s been a recurring theme to question how much he boosts head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. While Shanahan clearly wins with Garoppolo, another higher-profile quarterback could make San Francisco’s situation under center shine even more.

Someone like the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott.

Prescott’s situation last year was messy, putting it lightly. After being a pinnacle piece Dallas would ideally like to build around, Prescott was instead slapped with the franchise tag before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5.

At 27 years old, the hope is for a full recovery, putting him on track to be on the field again in 2021.

But where?

It would be foolish for the Cowboys to pass on retaining Prescott, and it’s a fair argument they should have offered him what could have been a record-breaking extension instead of using a fully guaranteed $31.4 million franchise tag. Should Dallas go that route again, the tag could cost $37.7 million.

Hindsight isn’t working in the Cowboys’ favor here.

And then there’s this from Dallas’ owner, Jerry Jones, appearing on 1053 The Fan (h/t The Athletic’s Jon Machota):

The 2021 salary cap is expected to drop as low as $176 million, per Over the Cap, and the Cowboys already have over $179 million committed to players on their roster next year. That doesn’t include Prescott, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the league new year.

Additionally, teams typically reserve between $8 million and $10 million to sign a rookie NFL Draft class, so that’ll make the situation for Jones even tougher barring some drastic changes to a roster that does need, as he pointed out, a lot of defensive help.

That ultimately prompts the question: Will Dallas commit to Prescott and be forced to make some serious alterations elsewhere, or will it let him walk in free agency in favor of retaining and upgrading other portions of the roster?

SF 49ers can afford to sign Dak Prescott

Unlike the Cowboys, the SF 49ers are currently projected to be $20.7 million under the cap, currently. And while the Niners have 40 pending free agents of one kind or another and have some awfully tough decisions of their own, going after Prescott isn’t something totally out of possibility.

First, we’d have to assume Prescott would command $30 million annually, although his recent injury could lower his asking price somewhat. Garoppolo, who is scheduled to earn up to $26.6 million next season, could generate $24.1 million in cap savings if cut or traded (note: he’d have to waive his no-trade clause for the latter). Potential cap casualties include EDGE Dee Ford and center Weston Richburg, who while injured (complicating the matter), could generate well over $11 million in additional cap space alone.

Would it hinder San Francisco’s efforts to upgrade other portions of the roster or re-sign some pending free agents?

Yes. But Prescott falls into that category of a centerpiece quarterback, and the current nature of the NFL showcases why having one of those is so vitally important.

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When potentially paired with Shanahan’s innovative offense, a Prescott-SF 49ers pairing could be a massive difference-maker.