The Dallas Cowboys sent people all over the world into raging debates on Saturday night when they decided to sign veteran quarterback Andy Dalton. Such is life when it comes to Cowboys-related things.
Naturally there are different opinions on what Dalton’s presence on the Cowboys roster means, most of them have to do with the player that he is backing up in Dak Prescott.
With Dak needing a new contract, the Cowboys already franchise-tagged him this offseason, there is obviously a lot of focus on him. Contract negotiations can often lead to different things and if this follows the logic we all believe it to, then sometime soon, in the foreseeable future, the Cowboys and Dak will come to terms and everything will move on.
The reality is that the Cowboys signing Andy Dalton is good news alongside them having Dak Prescott as their starter. Let’s focus on the Red Rifle today, though. Here are six reasons to applaud the signing.
The money appears to be extremely cheap
Often times the most important aspect associated with an NFL contract is the financial impact of it. The Cowboys signed Dalton to a one-year deal with $3M guaranteed, but it can ultimately reach $7M. At this time we do not know what can account for that extra $4M.
It’s likely that the extra bit is tied in part to playing/starting time for Dalton and potential milestones that he would reach in that case. If Prescott is injured and Dalton has to play, and if he ultimately did reach the milestones, then not only would the Cowboys have gotten competent backup quarterback play at (from a maximum value standpoint) $7M, but Dalton would be likely leading the team in a positive manner while hitting those milestones. In other words, if he earns his money, then the Cowboys will be happy to pay it.
A veteran backup has been needed for a long time
Think about the quarterbacks that have filled the Cowboys roster. They have been homegrown products for the past three years and that’s no a good thing.
Dak Prescott has started every game since 2016, but from 2017 and beyond those behind him on the depth chart were largely in-house projects. Current offensive coordinator Kellen Moore notably backed up Dak, and while he had a career before Dallas with the Detroit Lions, it wasn’t exactly stellar. Much of his development was tied specifically to Scott Linehan.
Other than that, the Cowboys have been rolling with Cooper Rush a moment’s notice away from playing the most important position on their team. Rush was an undrafted free agent in 2017 and actually was part of what pushed Moore into a headset in the first place, but he has not been a quality enough player to be so close to the team depending on him.
In 2016 the Cowboys had Mark Sanchez (other than Tony Romo obviously) backing up Prescott, and the year before that entered the season with Brandon Weeden as their QB2 (they would trade for Matt Cassel when Romo went down). Veterans at backup quarterback are seemingly a more stable option and Dalton provides that behind Dak with Ben DiNucci as a project moving forward.
Mike McCarthy now has a chance to have a brand new group of QBs
One of the points that Mike McCarthy has championed since becoming the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys has been developing quarterbacks behind Dak Prescott. Growing talent at the most important position in football keeps your team in an advantageous spot. He has mentioned the 90s Green Bay Packers as an example in this regard and we recently discussed how rookie Ben DiNucci can be a new-age version of Matt Flynn for McCarthy.
Stephen Jones has noted that Mike McCarthy took the Cowboys job partly because of how much he valued Dak Prescott. While that piece was already in place, McCarthy will now have two brand new options to likely fill the room with Dalton and DiNucci.
McCarthy having the players he wants at quarterback is good for the overall state of the Cowboys. His vision matters most.
This is a clear vote of confidence in the roster as a whole
Consider that, just to name a couple, both Pat Mahomes and Drew Brees missed time for their respective teams last season. Obviously the Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl, but the New Orleans Saints were among the best teams in the league throughout the year as well.
Kansas City went (counting the game Mahomes was knocked out in) 2-1 without their starting quarterback under center, New Orleans went 5-0. The play of Matt Moore and Teddy Bridgewater for the Chiefs and Saints, respectively, was invaluable as the results of the season for those two teams could have been drastically different without those wins.
This is a level of logic that the Cowboys are clearly subscribing to. In the event that Dak Prescott did indeed have to miss time, remember that he was hurt against the Los Angeles Rams last season, how would they legitimately fare with Cooper Rush or Ben DiNucci as their primary quarterback? Likely not all well.
We all agree that the Cowboys have built an incredible offense for Dak Prescott to operate, especially with the addition of CeeDee Lamb. It is wise to be responsible in hedging the bet they’ve made there and outfitting the team with someone that can run it in an emergency and Andy Dalton is certainly capable of that given his history in the NFL.
There is no more logical time to have three quarterbacks on the roster
When the 2020 season ultimately begins it is probable that the Cowboys have three quarterbacks on their roster: Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, and Ben DiNucci (we did some 55-man roster predictions here at BTB... granted before the Dalton signing happened).
You did not misread that. NFL rosters are now full of 55 players as opposed to 53. The additional two are a detail from the new CBA and as a result the active game day rosters will increase from 46 to 48 as well.
We talked recently here at BTB about how the Cowboys could be leaning into this with the drafting of Tyler Biadasz given that one of the two new game day spots must be an offensive lineman. There are obviously no rules that dictate that a team must carry three quarterbacks, but with another extra roster spot suddenly available, now seems like the best time to carry three quarterbacks.
There is merit to each of these three quarterbacks being on the roster. Dak is obviously the starter, Dalton is his backup, and DiNucci is a project that the team wants to work with. If the Cowboys feel like they can sneak DiNucci on the practice squad then that would obviously be even better, but all of that depends on how they feel other teams could evaluate him much later in this entire process.
By all accounts Andy Dalton is a tremendous person
Jason Garrett famously looked for the right kind of guys to play for his football team and there was always a lot of discussion among Cowboys fans regarding that philosophy.
This isn’t meant to pick at those old wounds, but there is obviously something to having outstanding people play on your football team. The Cincinnati Bengals officially released Andy Dalton last week and when they did there was an outpouring of affection from Bengals fans and those associated with the team over Dalton’s tenure.
It’s the little things... pic.twitter.com/lDbKqh56JB— Marisa Contipelli (@BengalsMarisa) April 30, 2020
Having someone of Andy Dalton’s character on the Cowboys in general is a good thing, but with such a young group there is certainly no demerits to having a longtime NFL veteran available as a leading presence. Remember how fondly Mark Sanchez was regarded by a young Dak Prescott, perhaps Andy Dalton can have a similar effect, maybe even with a growing Ben DiNucci.
This signing makes a lot of sense for the Cowboys.