Backup quarterbacks aren’t usually that valuable, until suddenly they are. The Dallas Cowboys learned this lesson last season when Dak Prescott went down in their season opener with a broken thumb.
Dallas’ backup, 29-year-old Cooper Rush, was thrust into action and tasked with keeping the Cowboys afloat until Prescott was able to return. While Rush did not light up the stat sheet during his time as the starter, posting a 0.010 EPA + CPOE and 42.4% success rate, he did win four of the five games he started.
The best thing the veteran Rush was able to do is not turnover the football. Until his final start of the season against the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6, Rush did not turn the football over once during his first four starts.
While Rush did take just six offensive snaps the rest of the season after Prescott returned, his effort during the starter’s absence proved to be vital. Those four wins helped get the Cowboys back to the playoff for the second-straight season for the first time since 2006-2007.
With the veteran signal-caller set to become an unrestricted free agent this spring, the Cowboys have a decision on their hands. Is retaining Rush, as a virtual insurance policy in case of injury, worth the money it will cost to bring him back?
No one’s going to mistake Rush for a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, but if you look at free agency in recent years, you’ll see even average quarterbacks are getting paid good money.
Last season, Tyrod Taylor, who had not been a full-time starter since 2017, signed a two-year, $11M deal with the New York Giants. Nick Foles, another veteran who is clearly over the hill, signed a two-year, $6M contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
While Rush may not have the résumé of Taylor or Foles, he certainly is at least a similar-caliber player to both at this point of his career. The 29-year-old will likely earn himself a contract in free agency comparable to what Taylor and Foles received.
Let’s say Rush was to be offered a two-year deal worth $10M in free agency. In contrast, that may not seem like a lot for the Cowboys to match, $5M a year could be the difference in them getting a player like Leighton Vander Esch or Donovan Wilson back or not.
If all things go according to plan, and the Cowboys were to bring back Cooper Rush, he would not take a meaningful snap for the Cowboys next season. Rush would serve as an insurance policy, which has value, but just how much is the question?
Dallas’ answer to this question will determine if Rush is wearing the star on his helmet next season.