For the first time in a month, the Dallas Cowboys will make it through the weekend without losing a football game. Of course, that accolade that comes courtesy of their bye week. Make no mistake about it, this Cowboys team isn’t playing winning football right now. And when you consider a big part of that is the unfortunate health of the squad, there will be no corner turned as there is no sign of improvements coming. Check out the extent of the Cowboys injuries this season:
And that doesn’t even include the time missed for defensive starters Leighton Vander Esch (four games) and Anthony Brown (three games) or the three games missed by offensive line backups Brandon Knight and Joe Looney. Things have been bad. Really bad.
That places this current Cowboys team in a precarious situation for the remainder of the season. We’ve all come to terms that this season isn’t going anywhere, so let’s grab a ticket to the organic tanking show that will reward this team with a top 10 draft pick. In fact, the Cowboys currently hold the no. 3 position for the 2021 NFL draft order.
While it’s unclear where this team ultimately finishes, it’s clearly evident that they’re going to get a shot at one of the top collegiate players in the nation come April. As the level of suckitude increases, the team gradually starts positioning themselves in a landing spot that could put them in play for the “arms race” that happens every year when bad teams have an opportunity to draft one of those highly-coveted top college quarterbacks.
The Cowboys, however, don’t need a new quarterback. They have Dak Prescott. Or should we say, they soon will have Prescott once his long-term extension is signed.
Even though the quarterback situation in Dallas appears to be pretty cut and dry, it’s hard to get away from at least pondering what it would look like if the team drafted one of the top quarterbacks coming out of college, so that is what we’re going to do here.
Why it should be considered
Currently, there are three quarterbacks who stand to be hot commodities on draft day - Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (projected to be the no. 1 overall pick), Ohio State’s Justin Fields, and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance. Playing along with this hypothetical, if the Cowboys land in one of the top draft spots to secure a player they absolutely love, then what?
Prescott get’s tagged
The Cowboys organization should have a good feel for what they plan to do by the time free agency rolls around in mid-March of next year. There is a super-small chance they get a long-term deal worked out with Prescott before then, but the Cowboys could place a second franchise tag on him to prevent him from hitting the open market. The front office will have to work a bit to free up the cap space to do it, but that shouldn’t be a problem. On paper, the Cowboys will have to account for a $37.7 million cap hit for 2021. The clock, once again, will start for them to work out a long-term deal before the July deadline.
Trade him or lose him
If the Cowboys intended to use their first-round pick on a quarterback, then they would need to find a way to trade Prescott to avoid just flat out losing him after the 2021 season. The optimal scenario would be deal him away to another team that really wants Dak as their quarterback. There would be a lot of behind the scenes negotiations as well as financial finagling going on to swing such a deal, but if they pulled it off, here is what the Cowboys would gain:
- Future draft capital, including at least one first-round pick
- Estimated cap savings of $31 million per year over the next four seasons*
*denotes removing Prescott’s annual cost of $40 million and adding on a new rookie deal of about $9 million annually
The additional draft capital combined with over $120 million in cap savings over the next four seasons creates a package that would be very appealing if it also included a talented young star quarterback. And that’s the reason we can’t just completely discount the idea all together. However, once they ponder it over, hopefully they’ll understand...
Why it’s not a good idea
The driving force behind what the Cowboys actually do will come down to how they feel about their choices. If they felt they were getting the league’s next star quarterback, then that’s the way to go, right?
They have the league’s next star quarterback already. Is it possible a player they could select might turn out better than Prescott? Sure. It’s possible. It’s also highly unlikely. What looks fantastic coming out of college, doesn’t always translate to the NFL level. Let’s take a look at the last ten quarterbacks drafted within the top three picks of the draft.
What quarterbacks from that list would you want to have over Dak Prescott? At most, you might say Kyler Murray and/or Joe Burrow, and that’s only because what we’ve seen of them thus far is mostly good. There are a lot of young quarterbacks that start out with a lot of promise, but that doesn’t guarantee great things later. If the Cowboys hit the reset button at quarterback and went with a brand new college star, they would be taking a huge amount of risk.
The Cowboys know what they have with Dak. And after watching this team play with three different backup quarterbacks their past four games, they also know what they have without him. Rather than using that golden draft capital on a new quarterback, they should use it instead to add pieces around him, like say, on defense? Wouldn’t the thought of adding a top defensive player like Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons or Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain make you feel better about the collective state of this roster? And if the Cowboys do end up in one of the top quarterback spots, they can just as easily trade out of it for extra draft picks with a team that is much more quarterback hungry.
It’s always good to lay everything out on the table so they can make a decision that is best for the team, but when it’s all said and done, that decision is going to include keeping no. 4 behind center for years to come.