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NFL’s emergency QB rule and how it could affect Cowboys roster decisions

The league’s allowance for an emergency third quarterback comes with stipulations that could affect someone’s job security.

NFL: Preseason-Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As we’ve been projecting the Dallas Cowboys’ 2023 roster, responses indicate that there is some confusion out there about the NFL’s new rule regarding an “emergency” third quarterback. It’s good to take a moment to clarify this rule as it could have a significant bearing on the job security of Will Grier or Cooper Rush, depending on who ultimately loses out in the battle for the backup job.

For now, Grier is still expected to be QB3 behind Dak Prescott and Rush. While he does seem to have closed the gap a bit with Rush in overall competence and performance, it’s hard to turn down Rush’s 5-1 record as a starter. Even with the change from Kellen Moore’s offense to Mike McCarthy’s and Brian Schottenheimer’s, Rush’s experience and credibility with his teammates is far better established.

So, assuming that Grier is the third man in 2023, how could the new rule affect him?

Effective this season, NFL teams can designate an “emergency” quarterback from among their inactive players on game day. This player must already be on their official roster and not a call-up from the practice squad. He is only allowed to enter the game if the starter and backup are pulled for medical reasons. If one of them is cleared to return, QB3 has to go back to the sideline.

So, to be clear, the rule only allows teams to select their emergency QB and not have him count against the 46-man active roster for games. But he would still count against the official 53-man roster limit.

In a recently-released roster projection, Grier’s presence on the 53 left some readers perplexed. They cited the new rule as why, assuming that he was allowed to serve in this emergency role from the practice squad. But the rule is clear that the player cannot even be called up that week from the squad, having to be carried on the active roster to even be eligible.

You might have thought this rule already existed, and you’d have been right in the past. It was around about a decade ago but was eventually nullified by the NFL. So this provision is actually just reinstating a past rule after recent issues with QB injuries brought it back into league-wide discussion.

Now if you still don’t think that Dallas needs to worry much about having a third quarterback given the rarity of needing him to come into a single game, that’s a fair argument. It’s highly unlikely that both Prescott and Rush would get injured in the same game, but we’re talking about the same Cowboys who currently have depth issues on the offensive line. How much do you want to gamble with the most important position on the field?

Also, if Grier shines in the next two preseason outings, he could become difficult to put on the practice squad. While he is 28 now, Grier was a third-round pick in 2019 and could be seen as a solid QB2 candidate for a needier team. With no other passers currently in camp, does Dallas really want to replace him at this late juncture?

Clearly, if Will Grier doesn’t make the Cowboys’ roster in 2023, it has nothing to do with the emergency QB rule. We’ll soon find out his fate and close to 40 other players as the NFL’s cut day of August 29th is barreling down on us quickly.

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