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Good chance Cowboys only keep 2 QBs in 2023

Going thin at QB could avoid a tough decision somewhere else on Dallas’ roster.

Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

If there aren’t any additions made over the next few weeks, the Dallas Cowboys will be taking three quarterbacks to their 2023 training camp. Some might assume that those three, barring injury, will waltz their way onto the 53-man roster. But could there be more competition between them, particularly Cooper Rush and Will Grier, than you might expect?

Dak Prescott’s spot as the starting quarterback is firmly established. It also feels like Rush’s role as QB2, especially after re-signing with the team in the offseason, is a given. That would seem to put Grier in the unenviable place of having to prove he’s worth securing on the official roster and not being left vulnerable on the practice squad.

Dallas often kept just two passers on the roster during the Tony Romo era. You’d see Romo paired with a veteran backup like Jon Kitna, Kyle Orton, and others. But as Romo’s health and reliability regressed, that third QB soon became a more regular feature.

Prescott’s tenure has come with a mixed bag. Cooper Rush was the only other passer on the 2017 and 2019 rosters; Dallas kept Mike White around for rookie development in 2018. Since 2020 and the aftermath of COVID concerns, and Prescott’s major leg injury, the Cowboys have kept three.

2023 could see a shift back to only keeping two. The leg injury is now far off in Prescott’s rearview and the pandemic is over. You have a clear starter and backup between Prescott and Rush, leaving Grier as the obvious third man and in jeopardy of losing his chair when the music stops.

While Grier and Rush could certainly compete for the backup job this summer, Rush’s new contract would seem to guarantee his return for at least one more year. His guaranteed money would actually cause Dallas to lose about $600k in cap space if he’s released, so no incentive there for the team. It would seem the Cowboys fully intend for Rush to at least be on the 2023 roster.

That doesn’t mean Grier couldn’t push him for the backup job. He’s a little younger and arguably has more untapped potential, though that doesn’t hold as much water in his fifth season as it did in the past. The reported shift to more West Coast principles in Dallas’ offense could also benefit Grier, whose mobility and style are suited to that scheme.

If Grier does somehow push his way up the depth chart, Rush would probably still stick around as part of the QB room. He and Prescott have a strong working relationship and there’s value in that in game preparation and even on the sidelines during games. Rush would also be a good mentor for Grier in that way, especially if something happens to Prescott and forces Grier into action.

Still, the notion that Grier could actually push Rush out of the backup job feels unrealistic at this point. Even if he’s the more exciting player to watch, Rush’s 5-1 record as a starter over the last two years is tough to ignore.

Despite that, can Grier make himself too valuable to lose? That is a tall order given what Dallas already has on the QB depth chart, and especially with some of the tough decisions coming elsewhere on the roster. With projected logjams of talent at defensive end, cornerback, and safety, or with the reasonable desire to keep extra bodies on the offensive line, the Cowboys would gladly create an extra roster spot where they can.

Again, Grier not making the roster doesn’t mean he won’t still be part of the organization. Dallas will definitely keep at least one passer on the practice squad, but even then he could be in trouble if they like younger options from other teams’ roster cuts.

Clearly, whether or not the Cowboys do end up keeping three quarterbacks on the 2023 roster would seem to come down to Will Grier. Will his increased time in the NFL and with the Cowboys help him make a strong case, or will they be factors that push the team to look for more upside elsewhere?

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