What can the Cowboys do to ensure they have a solid starting quarterback moving forward?
Jerry Jones will have some tough calls to make during the 2021 offseason, but none tougher than what to do at quarterback.
Dak Prescott was lights out as the one constant in Mike McCarthy’s system through the first four and a half weeks, and was the singular hope for Cowboys fans that this season might not be lost. But after his devastating ankle injury that not only ended his season but put his future in doubt, Dallas turned to backup in Andy Dalton. Six quarters into his stay with the Cowboys, it’s clear he’s at best a rental option.
Playing on the franchise tag, Prescott was looking to earn his new contract well over the $40 million per season mark. Leading the NFL with 1,856 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions, those are certain stats worth franchise-caliber money.
Now, Prescott has to hope that post-surgery he can return to a similar style of play but more immediately the Cowboys need to figure out what their plan at quarterback will be in 2021 before options start getting taken off the table. .
Another franchise tag looming?
As reported, Dallas still will look to sign Prescott to a second franchise tag before the start of next season. This past year, Prescott’s tag was worth a guaranteed $31.4 million. If he signs again, that price will rise to roughly $37.6 million.
Sure, that’s what Jones would hope for, but who says Prescott would take the deal after the injury that could derail his career? That also won’t help with lingering issues on the defense and offensive line.
The Cowboys currently are set to have $26.8 million in cap space heading into 2021 according to Sportrac.com. That of course is before the team will part ways with expensive contracts from underachieving players or cutting ties with those entering their final year.
Does Jones try to do a sign-and-trade Dak? Does he just let him walk, and if so, who would be next to don the star as the leader of McCarthy’s offense?
Right now essentially every option is on the table. Trading for Jameis Winston might be the best plan we’re not talking about. The Saints signed Winston to a one-year $1.1 million deal, easily something Jones could cover for the remainder of 2020. Ryan Fitzpatrick is another option, should the Cowboys decide to go the trade route. With Tua the starter in Miami and the NFC East incredibly winnable — a four-win team could host a playoff game — Fitzy working his magic in a grand finale in Dallas sounds like the stuff of football lore.
The hang up with either Winston or Fitzpatrick is trade value. Dallas holds absolutely zero leverage in trade talks and New Orleans would be hard-pressed to flip Winston for anything less than what it deems worthy compensation. Fitzpatrick might not be the starter anymore, but Miami might not be itching to part with him as a mentor for Tua. Beyond all of that, would Jerry Jones be willing to trade draft capital to try and win this year with a band-aid starter?
Lose for Lance, patent pending
It seems ridiculous now that the Cowboys would be looking to draft Dak’s replacement in the first round — even with his horrendous injury — but bet on this rumor catching fire the deeper we get into Mock Draft SZN.
When that rumor mill starts spinning, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance will be a prime candidate. Overall, the Bisons’ throwing mechanics need work, as does his accuracy deep downfield. However, Lance is a 1,000-yard rusher who in his sophomore year collected 42 total touchdowns with 14 coming on the ground.
Dallas is in limbo and Jones needs to continue to bend. The smartest play is to sign Prescott, but somehow that feels like a post-2021 conversation. Even if he walks, the Cowboys still have options under center that could keep them in postseason talks at a bargain rate.
Maybe not great options, but options all the same.