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FRISCO, TX — Dak Prescott isn't going anywhere in 2023, so let's start by flushing that thought from the commode of your mind. That allows us to focus on the more important QB question as it pertains to the Dallas Cowboys, namely what happens behind the two-time Pro Bowler and 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Cooper Rush did his job in 2021, and again in 2022, but he'll begin taking calls in March as teams who are in need at the position try and peel him away from the Cowboys. Sitting in wait is Will Grier, a promising talent that caught the eye of head coach Mike McCarthy in training camp last summer, but who also still needs to prove himself and to remain healthy in the process.
Having already touched on the topic in the “What’s Next?” series, now it's time to bring some NFL free agency names to the table.
The job of a backup quarterback is to be ready at a moment's notice, and Cooper Rush has met that challenge time and again as of late — to the point where I dedicated an entire edition of “The Science Lab” in 2022 to giving him roses for helping the Cowboys to stave off a disastrous September and October this past season.
Rush went 4-1 in his five games as a starter, at one point winning five straight when also factoring in his victory over the Minnesota Vikings in 2021, to the tune of 422 yards and three touchdowns, and he's proven his worth after being released in 2020 and re-signed in 2021 (turns out the true "Red Rifle" is the undrafted one). He's an unrestricted free agent now, and gets to choose his landing spot at a time when his value is the highest it's ever been.
The decision on what to offer Rush will come down to what the Cowboys believe they have in Grier, to put it plainly. I often reported Grier's dominance at the QB2 position in training camp, to the point where he had overtaken Rush in an unofficial capacity, but a groin injury suffered in August completely changed that dynamic. When Prescott went down, the Cowboys needed a capable veteran (Rush) and not a second-year player nursing a groin issue; and the rest is history.
But with the future on call waiting, Grier is again fully healthy and ready to challenge for the role directly behind Prescott. And though he's not an exact mirror of QB1's capabilities, he's designed in a similar archetype and that includes mobility, making him an intriguing option going forward. Grier is an unrestricted free agent in 2024, so it's now-or-never for the 27-year-old.
What's Out There:
Note: These players will be unrestricted on March 15, barring a newly-signed deal with their incumbent team prior to that date.
I'm not interested in riding the Andy Dalton train in 2023, seeing how badly it derailed in his time with the Cowboys in 2020. That being the case, a guy like Brissett comes to mind — having played admirably for the Browns during the extended suspension of Deshaun Watson in 2022, to the tune of 12 touchdowns to six interceptions with a career-high accuracy percentage (64%) and passer rating (88.9).
Brissett did finish with a record of 4-7, but I continually contend that QB records aren't a real thing and the fact he was sacked 24 times and pressured quite a bit more goes to my point. I like the experience of Brissett (48 career starts) along with his ability to extend plays and what should be a reasonable price point.
A much more heralded player entering and exiting his respective draft than was Brissett, Bridgewater has since fallen from grace as a potential franchise quarterback in the NFL, but that doesn't mean he is incapable of standing behind one in case of emergency. Things didn't go well for him with the Dolphins last season, but keep in mind he's also just one year removed now from dragging the 2021 Denver Broncos to a what you could label a respectable record, all things considered.
In that same year, Bridgewater registered his second-best career passer rating (94.9) with 3,052 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to seven interceptions, numbers that tell me the 30-year-old still has some tread on his tires that might make solid contact with the QB2 road in Dallas.
Easily the most well-known name on this list, I'm not out on Mayfield as a backup quarterback in the NFL. I wouldn't go tossing the keys to my franchise to him, mind you, but I've been paying close attention to what he can do in small stretches of time and, for the right money, I'm sold on potentially adding him to a roster that wouldn't include Rush; assuming the latter does part ways with the Cowboys.
Mayfield's time with the Panthers was forgettable, but not his move the Rams was commemorated with a comeback-thriller on what was a short week for the former first-overall pick. He didn't get a ton of burn in Los Angeles and was also sacked 17 times (!!) in only four starts (4.25 per game), which wasn't exactly a recipe for him to do anything but chew grass. All in all, the Cowboys aren't afraid to try and turn a former franchise QB (Dalton) into a backup QB, but this time it might actually work.