The equation is pretty simple as far as the starting quarterback. If Tony Romo stays healthy, the Dallas Cowboys should have a good season in 2016. The problem is the size of that "if". The unavoidable truth is that he has not been able to stay on the field for all 16 games with reliability, and opposing defenses are going to be coming at him hard this year. Every time he gets hit we will hold our collective breath and wait to see if he gets up. If he doesn't, then visions of the Great Debacle of 2015 will strike terror into our hearts as we remember how dismal the backups were.
Free agency failed to provide a new answer at QB2 for the Cowboys. The only serious attempt the team seemed to make was for Matt Moore, and when he spurned them in order to return to the Miami Dolphins, it left Kellen Moore and Jameill Showers as the only options on the roster. Showers seems to be more of a practice-squad hero who might have some value as a special teams ace one day, but there is no indication right now that he is really part of the plan as a backup QB. That leaves Kellen Moore, who seems to have a huge fan in Scott Linehan, and not much of one in Jason Garrett, or pretty much anyone else.
That leaves the draft, and the perception is that the Cowboys now have to take a quarterback. But there is a failure to consider that there are other options yet to come.
For every NFL team, the roster is a series of dominoes. Between now and the final cut-down in training camp, all teams can carry up to 90 players, and all are still very much in the process of adding and subtracting. There will be more quarterbacks who become available, either as outright cuts or as possible trade targets. And this year, the Cowboys have a bit of trade ammunition in RFA guard Ronald Leary, who is a valuable backup, but could be part of a deal to get the right quarterback.
One player that may be of interest to Dallas is Josh McCown, currently with the Cleveland Browns. With the recent signing of Robert Griffin III, McCown's position on their roster is now certainly in question. Griffin was signed to a two year deal with no guarantee of being the starter, and the Browns are still likely to take a quarterback with the second overall pick of the draft. That may make McCown a very good option for a team looking for a proven veteran backup QB. It is unknown how likely the Browns would be to see Leary as someone they would be interested in, but it could be worth exploring. A more detailed examination of how the Cowboys could go after McCown or another possibility in a similar situation, Brian Hoyer, was posted by Patrik Walker on KD Drummond's CowboysWire website, and it makes a convincing case for Dallas to pursue them.
Those are just two names, and there will be others. Hopefully, the Cowboys will not find themselves having to spend future draft capital the way they did with the failed Matt Cassel experiment, but the current situation is highly unlikely to be what the team will have for the season. The draft may provide an answer, but it is hardly the only route that the team can take, and it is just as likely that Dallas will both draft a QB and sign a veteran at some point. Both Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett have made the point that talent acquisition is not something limited to a handful of narrow windows like the draft and the first few weeks of free agency, but a 365 (or 366 this year) day endeavor. The Cowboys have already come up with one somewhat under-the-radar signing in Benson Mayowa. With the concerns about finding a better backup for Romo, you can be sure that the scouting staff is putting in the hours sifting through all the possibilities.
Now we have to hope they can find a good option. As we found out to our dismay, there can be real misses. The recent history here has been dismal, with Kyle Orton, Brandon Weeden, and Cassel all turning out to be a lot less than the team thought they were. But a little further back, the team found Jon Kitna. Maybe it is time for the odds to work in the Cowboys' favor this year.
Just don't think that they are done trying. There is a lot of time, and it is almost certain that something will be done to try and make sure that the team can survive if the unthinkable happens, because we know that we have to think about it anyway.