In 2015, the Dallas Cowboys saw their season effectively end in the second week when Tony Romo went down with a broken collarbone. He would come back, only to re-injure the same bone. For most of the Great Debacle of 2015, the team saw nothing but struggles as they went through Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore without ever finding a real solution without Romo on the field. Backup quarterback was seen as a real need for them going into free agency, but with Matt Moore spurning them to return to the Miami Dolphins, they are back at square one.
And the pickings have gone from pretty slim to begin with to downright pitiful. The odds of signing a decent free agent now are just about gone. All that is left are players like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Robert Griffin III, who will almost certainly go to a team they can at least compete for a starting position, and players you probably don't want to see in Dallas anyway, like Weeden. Matt Moore may have been the only real shot they had to get a decent backup at a reasonable price. We don't know what their offer was, but it was probably close to what he took from his old team, so it seems either there were other factors, like not wanting to relocate, or he was just using Dallas as leverage to get the deal he wanted to stay in Miami.
Now, it looks increasingly like the Cowboys will roll into training camp with Kellen Moore as the primary backup and Jameill Showers as a camp arm. This means they almost have to take a quarterback at some point in the draft, and as Ryan Ratty showed in his looks at both blue-chip and mid-range prospects, they are looking at a lot of possibilities.
There is some reason to believe that the coaching staff (particularly Scott Linehan) is not dissatisfied with the idea of taking Kellen Moore into the season as the QB2, pending what happens with the draft. They did get to see him in live NFL action at the end of last year, so they have some idea of what he brings to the position. As much as many of us may not like the idea, we have exactly zero votes on how they handle it. Can Kellen Moore become a viable backup (meaning the team can play .500 ball in Romo's absence)? It is not certain, but also not out of the question. Can he become the quarterback of the future? While you can never say never, the odds are that he will not.
Like it or not, the draft is the only real remaining path to get a better backup QB, and the team will also be hoping to get someone who can grow into a starter while sitting for at least two years behind Romo. There are then issues to deal with when a rookie QB's contract expires and whether Romo still has a year or two left at that point, but those are a bit too complex to sort out at this time. At least they would have a possible answer on the roster.
And there are some indications that the team may be shooting higher than the mid-rounds to fix the problem.
Mike Francesa said on WFAN that Cowboys are contacting teams in the back part of the 1st round on a trade back into the 1st if Lynch slips— Nick C (@NickCRSEN) March 16, 2016
NYJ will move. Know that for a fact. https://t.co/j6nC2VTVeZ— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) March 16, 2016
Paxton Lynch has been overshadowed by the buzz around both Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, but there are still those who think he may be the best quarterback available this year.
If the Cowboys could get Lynch, even at the cost of some draft capital, they could not only have a player who could be groomed to be Romo's eventual heir, he would also become the QB2 at some point, perhaps as soon as mid-season this year. Kellen Moore would then serve as a bridge to getting him ready, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that he could be pushed to the third spot by the opening game this fall.
Should Lynch be taken earlier, that might mean that Goff or Wentz slip down. All three are still candidates to go in the top half of the first round, which would make a trade up a bit too rich - but the Cowboys could still go with a quarterback at four, IF (and only if) they deem one of them to be a true franchise starter-in-waiting.
And there are other options for them if the Cowboys go into full trade mode when the draft rolls around, like this.
Imagine: Ramsey goes before #4 so DAL trades w/ SF & takes Zeke at #7 then uses extra ammo to move into the 20s to grab Lynch. Who says no?— Jordan Ross (@CHQ_Jordan) March 16, 2016
However, a more likely fallback position should the Cowboys not commit the fourth pick to getting a QB is that the would be looking at those mid-round names, with more of an eye to finding a backup and deferring Romo's eventual replacement to at least 2017. It is not an ideal situation by any means, but when you look over the list of free agent quarterbacks this year, and factor in the multiple other teams with similar needs as well as all the cap space that was floating around the league, the odds were pretty long against finding the answer there to begin with.
That leaves Dallas with a complex and pressing issue. It may make the draft very exciting, but the chance of things not working out are pretty strong. Of course, Weeden and Cassel were also busts as backups. There are no guarantees, and we are left waiting to see how it all shakes out.
And if you think this is a mess, the pass rush . . .
May be a topic for another day.