Leading up to the start of NFL free agency, NESN.com will break down the New England Patriots’ top potential veteran quarterback options. First up: Dallas Cowboys impending free agent Dak Prescott.
2021 status: Unrestricted free agent
2020 stats: 151-of-222, 1,856 yards, nine touchdowns, four interceptions, 68 percent completion percentage, 8.4 yards per attempt, 99.6 passer rating, 78.7 QBR (missed 11 games after suffering a compound fracture and dislocation to the right ankle)
Pros: The most obvious pro is that Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and still has higher potential. It is unlikely, however, that Prescott will actually come available. The Cowboys franchised Prescott last offseason, and if they can’t reach a long-term agreement with their starting QB, they’ll probably do it again this month. Dallas could elect to franchise and trade Prescott. He also could come available by the unlikely chance that the Cowboys trade for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson without making Prescott part of the deal. Dallas is on Wilson’s list of potential trade destinations.
Prescott would be worth a similar trade package as Wilson or Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson. Over the last two seasons, Prescott ranks 10th in EPA (expected points added) plus CPOE (completion percentage over expected), fifth in EPA per play, third in success rate, 17th in CPOE and sixth in air yards.
He has a big fan in Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
“He?s super impressive,” Belichick said in 2019. “This guy can throw the ball, he?s very accurate, he?s got great poise in the pocket, stands in there. He can extend plays and run if he has to, but he doesn?t do much of that unless he really needs to. He has great patience and poise, discipline in the pocket, gets his eyes down field. He?s a very good intermediate-to-deep ball-thrower. He?s got good weapons, but he?s been super impressive.
“Just, great, great quarterback — sideline throws, inside throws, in-cuts, posts, over routes, flag routes, you name it. Possession passes on third down, best third-down team in the league, best passing team in the league, most big plays in the league — I mean, I don?t know where you want to start, they do it all. And, he does it all. He runs options, he runs read zones, keeps the ball in critical situations, tough guy to tackle, makes tough yards when he needs them, so he?s really good.”
Cons: The only real drawback is cost, both to acquire and keep Prescott. The Cowboys realistically aren’t just going to let Prescott walk in free agency. So, he could command three (or more) first-round picks in a trade. On top of that, Spotrac projects Prescott will command a four-year, $147 million contract with an average salary of $36.8 million per year. Prescott’s first-year cap hit would be lower than that, but he still could eat up almost half of the Patriots’ currently available $60 million in cap space.
At the same time, a quarterback like Jimmy Garoppolo or Derek Carr could cost around the same in 2021, and Prescott is younger and better.
Still, acquiring Prescott could hamstring the Patriots’ chances of upgrading their team around him through free agency and the draft.
Patriots’ chances: Very unlikely, but one can dream, right?