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Cowboys Satisfied With Current QB Situation, But Still Searching For Depth

GRAPEVINE, Texas – The oft-repeated adage says "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Heading toward the meat of the Cowboys' offseason schedule, it's a phrase that applies quite well to their quarterback position.

How could things be much more different? In the span of 12 months, the Cowboys have seen the rapid ascent of their newest quarterback – a Pro Bowler at the young age of just 23 in Dak Prescott. At the same time, Prescott's rise to starting status brought about the retirement of Tony Romo, who holds the majority of the franchise's passing records.

And yet, for all that drastic change, the Cowboys' quarterback situation looks awfully familiar to years past. They have an established starter in Prescott and a veteran backup in Kellen Moore – and a lot of questions about the plan beyond that.

"We probably are going to have to keep our eyes wide open," said Cowboys executive vice president on Wednesday at the team's annual golf classic.

That's not necessarily a knock on the current situation. Prescott is one of the NFL's brightest young stars, having won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year while leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 record. The organization has also repeatedly expressed confidence in Kellen Moore – who signed on for a third season earlier this spring.

"This guy has got a veteran-type mind on him, and when he's in the room he brings a lot to the table. He certainly brings that aspect," Jones said of Moore. "We were obviously comfortable last year going with Tony and then Kellen and then Dak. And so we're certainly comfortable with Kellen playing that role."

Famously, it was Moore's broken leg – suffered just three days into training camp – that opened the door for Prescott to take his first starting reps in practice. But even while he was sidelined, the veteran was a constant presence at the Cowboys' facility and in the quarterbacks' meeting room.

"He never left the building from the time he got hurt. He was there every step of the way," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on Wednesday. "We feel like he's still a young player that can definitely really improve."

Moore hasn't had a bigger cheerleader than Linehan, who coached him in Detroit for two years after he signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent. Linehan said he went as far as to review Moore's tape from the 2016 offseason to get a handle on just how far he has progressed.

"I went back and watched all of his offseason from last year leading up to his injury," he said. "I was saying 'Was I seeing something?' And I really just confirmed what I believed – which is that he really made a big jump in his game."

That helps explain why Moore remains the primary option behind the Cowboys' starter for the second consecutive year. That development, coupled with some strong performances at the tail end of the 2015 season, has the Cowboys feeling plenty of confidence that Moore can handle a starter's workload.

As Linehan himself reminded, Moore did complete 33-of-48 passes for 435 yards and three touchdowns in his most recent start – a 34-23 loss to Washington to cap off the 2015 season.

"I know it was the end of the season and we weren't necessarily playing for anything, but just seeing the way he played within our system just really confirms what he can do for us if he had to be called upon," Linehan said.

All of that said, don't expect the Cowboys to be content with the current situation. Team officials made no secret about the fact that they would have liked to find a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. And with that not falling in their favor, they signed two undrafted quarterbacks in Central Michigan's Cooper Rush and Florida's Austin Appleby.

"Hopefully one of them is the next Romo – that's what we're betting on. No, I'm kidding. But we'll certainly look at them," Jones said. "We'll have to make some decisions from there in terms of what our next step should be."

It sounds like a solid enough game plan for the time being. The Cowboys can expect to have four arms through the duration of the offseason and into the preseason – but that could always be subject to change.

Jones himself said that the Cowboys' next developmental quarterback might not be on the roster as of yet, given that plenty of players will be released between now and the final cuts before the start of the season.

"There's a lot of moving parts there, and there's a lot of teams that like to carry two in this league," he said. "We could be out there looking for a young guy to put on the practice squad, and he might not start on our roster in training camp."

There's also the possibility that the right opportunity presents itself in the form of another veteran – echoing back to last year's decision to sign Mark Sanchez. It's something that will bear monitoring as the start of the season grows closer.

As familiar as the quarterback situation feels right now, things tend to change quickly.


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