IRVING, Texas – For the briefest of moments, it looked like the Cowboys had secured the future of their quarterback position – and then they hadn’t.
Late in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday, the Cowboys made an offer to trade with the Seattle Seahawks. Dallas would jump up from No. 34 overall to No. 26 with a clear goal in mind: draft a successor to groom behind Tony Romo.
“We were working real hard to get up there for the quarterback – Paxton Lynch,” said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
There was just one problem – the Denver Broncos had the same idea, and their offer was better.
“Frankly, give Denver credit,” Jones said. “I thought we had it done. It was that close.”
It was a night that wasn’t guaranteed to have much quarterback drama, given how the draft began. As was long expected, this year’s top two quarterbacks went early – Jared Goff was the No. 1 overall pick, with Carson Wentz right behind him at No. 2. Despite an offseason of discussion, there was no real opportunity for Dallas to draft a quarterback with their No. 4 pick, and they opted instead for running back Ezekiel Elliott.
To hear it from team executive vice president Stephen Jones, though, their interest in Lynch picked up as the first round of the draft wound down.
“When it fell about halfway through the draft, it started really getting our attention that it might be something that we could get our hands around,” he said.
It’s been well-documented by now, but the Cowboys’ concerns at quarterback are one of the NFL’s most compelling story lines. Tony Romo is six weeks removed from surgery to strengthen the broken collarbone that ruined his 2015 season. Behind him sits Kellen Moore, as the Cowboys opted not to bolster their quarterback depth during free agency.
At 6-7, 245 pounds, Lynch offers an intriguing – if raw – option as a potential backup and possible future starter.
“He’s a top prospect – got probably the highest upside in the draft,” Jerry Jones said. “Congratulations to Denver.”
Of course, the Broncos’ own quarterback concerns justify the move. Peyton Manning retired earlier this offseason, and 2012 draft pick Brock Osweilier signed with Houston in free agency. At the time the Broncos made the trade, they had only Mark Sanchez as a viable option to lead their offense in 2016.
“We made a big push. We tried,” Stephen Jones said. “A lot of times you can get those things done, and this time it didn’t come our way.”
Denver sent their No. 31 pick and their No. 94 pick to Seattle in exchange for No. 26. It was an offer Jerry Jones said was better than his own – though not for lack of trying.
“We offered something that was probably less than Denver,” he said. “But had we known that would get it done, in hindsight, we would have sweetened the pot – but they didn’t radio us in to Denver to tell us what they were doing over on the other side.”
It might have been a disappointing result, but it likely isn’t the end of the Cowboys’ efforts to secure a rookie quarterback. Goff, Wentz and Lynch are all off the board, but Dallas has done extensive work on four other quarterbacks – all of whom remain available heading into Days 2 and 3 of the draft.
“We’ll re-evaluate and look at where our situation is with the remaining quarterbacks,” Stephen Jones said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re out, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re all in, either. It’s something we’ll evaluate as we go. If the right quarterback hangs in there again and we like him, then we really wouldn’t rule out anything.”
A look inside the war room at Valley Ranch during the 2016 Draft.