Draft Central | 2021

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Is 4th Round Where Cowboys Start Thinking QB?

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FRISCO, Texas – After well over a year of speculation, debate, and negotiations, Dak Prescott signed a long-term contract that will make him the cornerstone of the franchise for at least the next four years. Coming into the offseason, it seemed that Prescott's signing and the 2021 NFL Draft would be the two moments that would determine not only the 2021 Cowboys season but also their long-term future. With Prescott's situation resolved, the Cowboys are now in an interesting situation in terms of quarterbacks in the draft: On one hand, it is the position with the least amount of need on their roster, but if last season proved anything, it's that you can't take quarterback health for granted. 

So, the question is legitimate: Do the Cowboys have quarterbacks on their draft board, and if so, in what round would they be willing to select a player to back up Prescott? 

It's an interesting debate. In an ideal world, whoever is backing up Prescott, whether a rookie or veteran, won't have to play a single snap next season. Considering Prescott's age and the fact that he is entering the first year of his new contract, the team presumably isn't thinking about grooming his replacement either. "It's probably not going to be real early in the draft," Stephen Jones said on 105.3 The Fan on Monday.

Indeed, the Cowboys have too many legitimate needs within their roster to take a quarterback in the first two rounds. But if we're wondering where the line might be for drafting a quarterback when the team already has a great one, it might be worth looking at the origin of the quarterback they currently have, and the successful strategy they took to acquire him. According to Jones, they'll be implementing that same strategy.

"Certainly we'll keep our eye on [drafting a quarterback] just as we did with Dak when we had Tony Romo, a guy who could make a lot of sense for us there in the middle rounds," Jones said.

The Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and unforeseen circumstances led to him starting every game of his rookie season as well as Romo's retirement. It is obviously not an identical situation; Romo was 35 in 2016. But the Cowboys also elected to draft Stephen McGee out of Texas A&M in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft while Romo was in his prime, and McGee remained on the team as a backup through 2011. If you go all the way back to 1991, the Cowboys drafted Bill Musgrave in the fourth round out of Oregon just two years after drafting Troy Aikman No. 1 overall (Dallas released Musgrave in training camp). The Cowboys drafted Ben DiNucci in the seventh round in 2020.

Last offseason, the Cowboys prioritized backup quarterback by signing former Pro Bowler Andy Dalton. But it's worth noting that Dalton didn't sign with the Cowboys until after the 2020 NFL Draft, which perhaps suggests that the team was keeping the possibility alive to draft a quarterback in the fourth or fifth round, but found better value at other positions the way the draft played out. It wouldn't be crazy to assume the Cowboys are taking a similarly flexible approach: looking for great middle-round value at quarterback but willing to wait until after the draft to address it.

Potential veteran free agent quarterbacks the Cowboys could consider as a backup include A.J. McCarron and Matt Barkley.

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