DALLAS, Texas --  A Dallas Cowboys quarterback reunion took place Monday with current starter Dak Prescott and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman coming together as honorary chairmen for the The Children's Cancer Fund "A Knight to Remember" Gala. The duo helped reveal models, who were patients from the age of five to 17, for the non-profit's 34th annual flagship fundraising event focused on advancing research and treatment programs in pediatric oncology.

The two naturally also talked about the current state of affairs surrounding the Cowboys, and of course, the topic of Prescott's contract came up because the team's front office can't really do much budgeting for their 2024 "all-in" season without addressing their quarterback's contract. The 2023 MVP runner-up enters the final year of his four-season, $160 million contract with a $59.5 million cap in addition a no-trade and no-tag clause. 

Prescott possesses all of the negotiating leverage after leading the NFL with 36 passing touchdowns last season, becoming the first Cowboys quarterback to lead the league in that metric outright, and he certainly sounded like someone in firm control of his current contract negotiations.

"I'm definitely confident," Prescott said. " Obviously, it helps the team. It's important for the [salary cap] numbers. I've heard Jerry say that. That is a process. Both sides understand that. Everything is great. It'll happen."

Aikman agreed with Prescott, saying the current Cowboys quarterback's future shouldn't be in doubt, citing both his play and the particulars of his current deal. 

"I don't, I don't think it is," Aikman said when asked if Prescott's long-term future with Dallas is in question. "I think he'll, I don't know, I've been listening to you guys on television and on radio. They have to do his deal don't they? They have to free up some money, so he'll be here for a little while longer, and he should be. He's proven he can play at a high level, and I know that they've come up short as a team in the last few years, but he's been a great player in this league, and his best years are still ahead of him."

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that he didn't fear losing Prescott if contract negotiations fall apart, but he seems open to finding a long-term solution with his quarterback of eight years. 

"We don't need to, but we can if everybody wants to solve it," Jones said of extending Prescott, per The Athletic. "If you can't, what we have in place works. And so obviously, if you do it one way ... you'll be working through some of the other areas on the team in a different way. But you can't really plan on that until you see where you are there. That's what we're doing."

Dak Prescott 2023 season


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Pass Yards4,516

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Expected Points Added/Play0.182nd

Dealing with the aftermath of the 2023 season

Following the Cowboys' 48-32 postseason faceplant against the seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers, Prescott didn't make the same media rounds many big name players do along Radio Row in the days leading up to the Super Bowl like he typically does. He credited being at home more this offseason because of the birth of his daughter MJ on Thursday, Feb. 29, saying his daughter and the mother of his child, Sarah Jane Ramos, are at home and doing well. Prescott's sleep schedule has shifted a little bit, but his regular offseason training regimen remains the same. 

"I think at this point right, unfortunately, I've dealt with it [the emotions of a playoff loss] for some years," Prescott said. "I don't want to say this one definitely help but rather just the experiences and understanding what this year was. The greatness that came from this year, what we missed out on. A lot of time to myself just being home allowed me to shut the door on that one, turn the page into working out in the offseason and try to figure out that needs to get better and change things."

Being a part of the Cowboys 1990s dynasty teams that won three Super Bowls in four seasons from 1992-1995 insulated Aikman from the type of criticism Prescott and his teammates are dealing with today. He feels like everyone that's a part of "America's Team" will look back on their 2023 campaign, a third straight 12-win season that resulted in not reaching at least the NFC title game, as a critical fumble. 

"I benefitted from the success that the teams that I was a part of in January," Aikman said when asked if Prescott is criticized too much for the Cowboys' recent postseason shortcomings. "I understand there's two side to that coin. Until you do it, there's always the questions about whether or not you can. I do think this last year is going to be a year that the organization and the players, everybody involved looks back on and feels that they really missed an opportunity. There's been some of those in the last 20 years when they've been the number one seed, but the way the year ended for them to be the number two seed, I really thought that they would be in the NFC Championship game. I'm certain they thought the same thing."

Aikman was so certain the Cowboys were going to defeat the Packers in the NFC wild card Round and then the Detroit Lions in the NFC Divisional Round that he had his end of January schedule wide open so that he could attend the NFC title game if his Cowboys were in it. 

"Nobody cares what my plans were, but I didn't make plans because I planned on going to San Francisco and watching that game," he said. "That was a missed opportunity and you just don't know how many more of those you are going to get. The criticisms are real. They're going to continue to get louder each they come up short because of the amount of time since they last had a chance to win."

As a result of that loss, Jones opted to have McCarthy enter the 2024 season as a lame duck by not extending his deal and having him coach out the final year of his original Dallas contract. The Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback believes some additional pressure could perhaps help Dallas out in the long run. 

"Sometimes, I had hoped that would happen," Aikman said laughing when asked what the effect is on a player when their head coach is coaching out the last year of his contract. The six-time Pro Bowler has openly discussed in the past that the team never found his squads a suitable replacement after Jimmy Johnson's departure. "I don't think it matters too much. There's not many, whether it's players or coaches that want to go elsewhere. I think that's a benefit for the organization that they're able to allow the players and coaches to go into their last year and put a little pressure on them. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It's not ideal, but I don't think it's much a factor going into the season. I really don't."  

Cowboys culture

The level of ugliness the Cowboys' postseason defeat possessed - falling behind 27-0 and 48-16 -- has led to Dallas' team culture being questioned. Three-time All-Pro edge rusher Micah Parsons and his podcast -- "The Edge with Micah Parsons" -- drew the ire of some Cowboys fans after he had the worst game of his three-year career -- one quarterback pressure and one quarterback hit on 19 pass rushes -- against the Packers this past postseason. 

"I've said it before, this isn't a criticism. I think there's a lot you have to overcome," Aikman said when asked about the Cowboys' team culture. "If you're coaching or playing for the Cowboys, there are distractions. There's so much attention paid to this team, and I do think the way players come into the league has changed over the years. They're not together as much as they once were, like we were [the 1990's Cowboys], and it feels like a lot of a lot of players, if not all players are, are building a personal brand as much as they are building a championship team. I think that's the challenge for coaches, especially in Dallas, but I think that's the challenge for coaches across the league."

Rules about how many practices teams have in training camp have altered the kind of culture-building Aikman pointed out as being critical to connecting those 1990s Super Bowl championship locker rooms together. 

"I think it's harder," Aikman said when asked about building team chemistry today. "Because I think you forge your bond in the offseason and in training camp. Nobody cares about when I played 30 years ago, but we went through training cap one year, we went through days for I think four weeks. We didn't have an off day. There was almost a mutiny when Jimmy [Johnson] was coaching the team, but with that you bond in misery and you bond through tough times. There's a reason why the Navy Seals go through what they go through, so you don't get those opportunities the way you once did. I think that's what makes it challenging, but all the teams are doing it. There's still a Super Bowl winner. There's still teams making it to the [conference] championship game. So you can't use that as an excuse, but it has become more challenging compared to what it once was."

Prescott, one of the Cowboys' postseason captains, resisted elaborating much on the perceptions about Dallas' culture. 

"Yeah, the culture is high honestly, and the culture is great from my standpoint," Prescott said. .... "My point is that's something I've bragged on and took pride in. So if there's questions of that or concerns on that, I feel attacked. I'm sure some guys in the locker room do, but at the end of the day, it's a business, and the way that this business plays out, people don't get exactly what they want. There's always sourness I guess you could say somewhere. I don't want to make anything bigger than that."

While the quarterback has done his best to unplug himself from the typical offseason chatter that surrounds the Cowboys, Prescott admitted he's looking forward to what an "all-in" approach from Jones will look like with free agency kicking off next week. 

"Yeah, I've heard that one. I'm excited to see it honestly," Prescott said when asked about Jones' claims about being all-in. "I don't know. I can't say I've had talks with him about what is all in and how you plan on making those moves. So, let's see. I'm excited about it."