If 2020 taught the Cowboys anything, it was the value of Dak Prescott.
Dallas was forced to play most of the season without its franchise quarterback, who was participating under a one-year franchise tag deal before suffering a gruesome, season-ending ankle fracture and dislocation. Backup Andy Dalton performed admirably when available, but a stretch that saw the Cowboys play Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert punctuated just how important Prescott's involvement is to the franchise's chances of success.
That was not lost on Jerry Jones, who admitted as much when asked about entering a fresh round of contract talks with Prescott's representatives.
"I don't know how you could have any more leverage," Jones said during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan, via the Dallas Morning News' Michael Gehlken. "Dak might be a picture postcard, so to speak. His evolving into an NFL quarterback has been nothing short of a perfect picture."
... "You wouldn't be offering what we (did) had you not thought he's very special," Jones concluded, via USA Today's Jori Epstein.
Prescott had Dallas' offense putting up tons of points (out of necessity, because of the Cowboys' insufficient defense) before his injury, completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,856 yards (an average of 371.2 per game) and nine touchdowns before suffering the injury. Despite struggling to a 1-3 start, Dallas ranked near the top of the league in scoring up until Prescott's exit.
Without him, the Cowboys finished 2020 ranked 17th in points per game and 22nd in yards gained per play.
Jones and the Cowboys brass will return to the negotiating table with Prescott's team in the offseason with the goal of keeping their obviously valuable quarterback with the franchise for years to come. In the meantime, Dallas will need to shore up its defense, which Jones said Tuesday was negatively impacted by a lack of an offseason program in its first year under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
"I really missed it relative to how important it'd be to stay with the same philosophy," Jones said. "That one’s on me. I’ll take that one."
Nolan was under fire for much of the season because of Dallas' defensive struggles, but that doesn't mean he's out of a job -- yet. In response to a suggestion that Jones appeared decided on Nolan's fate, Jones replied, "it doesn't sound like anything."
Dallas will have months to make changes if Jones sees fit. The biggest one, though, could come to the space in the team's list of salaries occupied by Prescott, especially if Jones has his way.