The first week of the NFL season didn’t exactly go as planned for the Dallas Cowboys. Not only was it a rough game from start to finish, but the franchise lost their starting quarterback for a minimum of a month and at worst eight weeks, depending on who you rely upon for your football intel. Regardless of who you feel has the most accurate timeline for Dak Prescott to resume his normal duties as the franchise quarterback, one thing is for sure, the quarterback room is obviously in pretty rough shape at the moment.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of ways to maneuver at the position in order to keep the Cowboys competitive enough for their playoff hopes to be alive when Prescott gets back in the saddle. There are options in-house and also, some options that would require Dallas to acquire a player from another franchise.
Keeping things in-house is the simple solution
Cooper Rush at the moment seems to be the front office pick to hold the fort down in Prescott’s absence. It’s not a splashy move, but it’s the safest move because the franchise already knows what they have in Rush. He knows the offense which is a big plus, and means that the majority of the playbook is still on the table. In a small sample size, one start, he performed well enough to help the Cowboys win against the Vikings on Sunday Night Football during the 2021 season. Although Rush is the safest pick, there isn’t much of a high ceiling and what you see is what you get. This actually isn’t a terrible play because Rush isn’t going to necessarily win games, but he isn’t going to make the mental mistake to cost Dallas a game. With a strong defense, a game-manager like Rush could actually work while Prescott heals up.
The other in-house option is Will Grier, who also has limited professional experience. Grier’s career record is 0-2, but he really only played one full game due to suffering a foot injury that limited his second start versus New Orleans. Both games he was involved in weren’t pretty as both games were losses by 32 points. In the full game Grier started, the stats can be a little misleading as he threw for three interceptions and had zero touchdowns on the day. However, when going back and watching the film, two of those three picks happened due to being under duress because of the offensive line being outmatched by a stout Indianapolis Colts defensive line. The third interception he threw had more to do with the wide out not fighting for the ball enough and essentially allowed the defender to rip it out of his hands. The throw was just a tad under thrown, but it was a very catchable ball and the wide receiver simply didn’t do his quarterback any favors by the time that particular play had ended.
Lack of experience aside, Grier has a much higher ceiling than Rush but it comes with some risks as he is much more of gunslinger. Grier also has a much more prolific pedigree than Rush while coming out of high school in 2014, as he was the second ranked pro-style quarterback according to 24/7. Nevertheless, the upside and pedigree of Grier is tantalizing enough to roll the dice and see what he can do at this level. We’ve all seen how well he played in college, as he finished fourth in the Heisman voting in 2018. Considering what Dallas has on the roster currently, Grier is the easy choice and could develop into something the Cowboys have lacked for some time, a quality backup quarterback.
Searching other franchises for quality veteran quarterback help would be an upgrade considering how the quarterback room is currently configured
Starting with Jimmy Garoppolo, from a salary cap perspective would only cost around $8.5 million and at a maximum cost of nearly $16 million with incentives. Having Dak Prescott back in the lineup at no later than week 10, the cost of carrying Garoppolo shouldn’t come close to the $16 million mark because of the playing time incentives that have been built in to his restructured contract with the Niners. The other layer to his reworked deal is the no-trade clause, where he can control where he’s traded to. So yes, there are some hurdles involved and decent trade capital in play as well, but for a player who has a career record of 33-14, the price could certainly be worth it. The Cowboys have been known to get creative with cap space in case it was needed, and to keep the team in the hunt, it could be a price Jerry Jones is willing to pay.
The Cowboys should kick the tires on Case Keenum. Keenum is a native Texan and after a stellar career at the University of Houston, went undrafted in 2012. Since then and seven teams later, is still in the league currently with the Buffalo Bills and has had a decent NFL career. His career record is 29-35, however in many cases, those teams weren’t very competitive. When he was on a competitive squad, primarily in 2017 with the Minnesota Vikings, he put together a nice season where he had a 11-3 record and he led the team to all the way to the NFC Championship game. The game prior is where many will remember him from as he was the quarterback who threw a touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs as the clock was expiring to win the game in one of the most famous plays in NFL history, “The Minneapolis Miracle”. From a contract perspective, his cap number is just $3.5 million which is well within the cap space Dallas currently has available. In a trade scenario, it shouldn’t take a high level draft pick to acquire his services and to fill the void with a quality veteran quarterback while Prescott heals up.
The most likely scenario based on the Cowboys prior track record would be...
Of all four players mentioned, Case Keenum makes the most sense from a financial as well as a trade perspective. He’s a capable player that can help keep Dallas competitive in Prescott’s absence. Also, even when Prescott returns, having a quality backup like Keenum isn’t a bad insurance policy to have, in case of another injury to Dak. Jimmy G is the big name, but from a financial and trade perspective, doesn’t make a lot of sense due to the hurdles that would be involved in getting a deal done. The most likely scenario is that Dallas stays in house with either Cooper Rush or Will Grier. Rush will get the first crack and if he struggles, don’t be shocked to see Grier enter the game. Let’s just hope that Dallas can squeak out a few games and stay competitive enough to still have a shot at the playoffs once Prescott is ready to go.