With Andy Dalton gone, the Cowboys now must decide on who will back up Dak Prescott.
The Cowboys would have liked to have kept Dalton, but knew he would jump at the chance to start again. If Dallas wants to look at adding veteran help, there are a few options.
The Cowboys could consider Colt McCoy (a free agent who spent the 2020 season with the New York Giants), who has been linked to the Cowboys as a potential backup before. If Chase Daniel is released by the Detroit Lions, which is expected if Detroit cannot find a trade partner, he could be an option to return home, having played at Southlake (Texas) Carroll High School.
Alex Smith beat the Cowboys last Thanksgiving, 41-16, completing 19 of 26 passes for 149 yards with a touchdown and an interception and largely kept things together for the Washington Football Team on its way to a playoff run. Smith earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors after his return from a gruesome ankle injury in 2018. Smith's comeback has served as inspiration for Prescott in his own return from injury. And in 2005, coach Mike McCarthy was the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator when Smith was the No. 1 overall pick.
More on potential replacements for backup quarterback, Andy Dalton.
With Andy Dalton moving on to Chicago, could Alex Smith be a good replacement? – DONALD LEWIS / WASHINGTON D.C.
David: I know we say it a lot, but I think it’ll come down to cost. Alex Smith and other veterans like him will want a chance to start, and they don’t have that here. But if he or another veteran can be signed at a low price, like Dalton was last year, I think it’d be awfully smart. I know the team struggled last year, but Dalton proved that a capable veteran QB can make a big difference. I hope the front office takes a look at another veteran, whether it’s Smith or someone else.
Rob: I think he’d be a great free agent addition, but I’m also not sure how much the Cowboys plan to budget for the backup quarterback spot this year. Signing Dalton last year was unique and a bit of a luxury. The Cowboys can always move more money around through restructures to make things work under the cap but there’s a lot left to do at other positions, too.
Fitzmagic in Washington doesn’t scare the Dallas Cowboys, and that’s the problem - Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News
Could being in a weak division actually be hurting the Cowboys?
History tells us he will have a couple of 300-yard games early in the season that will spark the Fitzmagic headlines and then he will start throwing it to the wrong team and pretty soon whatever Washington thinks it has solved with this signing will be subject to debate once more. And all of this is a problem for the Cowboys. There was a time when excellence was demanded in the NFC East. But today, as we saw in 2020, even mediocrity will get you close.
With a great defense, Washington just needs something of an average offense to move from strange 7-9 division winner to contender status. The signing of Fitzpatrick shows the club didn’t take this quarterback opportunity seriously (unless there’s more to come), and that’s what brings us back to another slow start in free agency for Dallas. I don’t think the Cowboys are missing the boat on any great players, and you really don’t want to be winning the spending derby in March. Since 2016, Jacksonville and the Jets have been your two biggest free-agent “winners.” How’s that play in December?
The Cowboys are still refusing to play the free agency game like many other teams are doing.
The Cowboys used to be known for Jerry Jones’s high spending and flashy moves. Sometimes they would hit, like the signings of Terrell Owens, Deion Sanders, and Leonard Davis. Sometimes they would miss like trading for Receiver Roy Williams or Adam “Pac-Man” Jones. In either instance, they showed they were willing to go any and all routes to compete. In recent, more conservative years, the Cowboys have had some success by making the post-season, but have yet to even make it as far as to the NFC Championship game.
Looking at recent Super Bowl winners and even the teams that participated in the conference championships, they all drafted, made key trades, and signed outside free agents. For example, look at the effect the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made signing Tom Brady last offseason, going from 7-9 to win it all the next season, or how good the Browns have become over the past few seasons adding players like Jack Conklin, Austin Hooper, and Kareem Hunt, leading to their first playoff appearance since 2002.
How Andy Dalton’s short tenure with the Cowboys resulted in a win-win for both sides - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
The Red Rifle bet on himself, and it paid off.
The former TCU star happened to become available in early May when released after the draft and during a pandemic. Dalton already had a home in Dallas, making the Cowboys a fit for Dalton and his family. It would be unreasonable to expect the Cowboys to sign an experienced option. Garrett Gilbert, 29, seems to be an entirely capable No. 2 option.
Last November, a few weeks after joining the franchise, he made his first career NFL start against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gilbert was 23 yards short from a last-second upset vs. a team that was undefeated at the time. Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci, a 2020 seventh-round pick, remain at the position as well.
DiNucci was extremely raw as a rookie from James Madison. If the Cowboys aren’t sold on his developmental track, they can devote a Day 3 pick to a quarterback for a second straight year. Anything beyond that could be a luxury the Cowboys cannot afford.
There are still plenty of good free agents available that the Cowboys could pursue.
1. Anthony Harris, Safety. The Dallas Cowboys need help in their secondary. This need extends to both the cornerback and safety position. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the top-rated free agent still available at one of those positions finds himself atop this list, safety Anthony Harris is that player. The 29-year old defender has spent his entire six-year career thus far with the Minnesota Vikings. The veteran defender led the league in interceptions back in 2019 with six. He has also demonstrated his versatility by playing both free and strong safety during his career.
Last season he posted a career-high 104 total tackles and played an integral part of the Vikings defense. The Viking defender also managed to accrue seven pass deflections. Harris will likely cost more than either of the two players listed before him on this list, but, according to Spotrac, the team will likely still be available to afford him at his projected market value of $14 million a year.
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