FRISCO, Texas – This story should sound familiar to anyone who has followed the Dallas Cowboys in recent years.
As football season wrapped up, a Pro Bowl player for an NFC rival reached out to Dak Prescott and said it simply: "Come get me."
In this instance, though, it wasn't Earl Thomas – it was Randall Cobb. And as Cobb settles into his role in the Cowboys' offense this spring, he clearly got his wish.
"At the NFL Honors, we were getting ready to take our seat and he said that. It's interesting now, looking back," said Dak Prescott.
Fortunately for Cobb – and unlike Thomas – he made his plea in a private moment, rather than outside a crowded locker room, in front of two dozen reporters. That helps explain why Cobb's eventual move to Dallas wasn't breathlessly reported in the weeks leading up to free agency.
Cobb laughed when he was reminded of the conversation at NFL Honors. But as much as players might joke about switching teams, he didn't actually see a place for him on the Cowboys' roster until Cole Beasley departed during free agency.
"I actually didn't think that it would be an option going into free agency until I saw Beasley leave," he said. "Then I knew that it was a real possibility and that it could happen. And we were able to get something done."
It's easy to plug Cobb right into the Cowboys' lineup as the obvious replacement at slot receiver. That's where he caught the vast majority of his 470 receptions and 41 touchdowns during an exemplary eight-year career in Green Bay.
For a guy with Cobb's smarts and skillset, though, don't be surprised if his role is much larger in the long run.
"He's smart enough to play every position, so we'll keep him at one position but use multiple formations – put him outside, inside, in the backfield," said receivers coach Sanjay Lal. "We can put him anywhere, because he is that guy – he is that smart."
Cobb comes to the Cowboys, like most decorated veterans on a new team, wanting to prove himself. He was one of the most electric playmakers in the NFL for years, but a hamstring injury limited him to just nine games, 38 catches and 383 yards last year – his worst season since his rookie years in 2011.
For his part, he said he's had a chip on his shoulder since he was seven years old. But the sour taste of 2018 undoubtedly provides some motivation.
"Unfortunately, I didn't have the production that I've had in the past, and obviously you don't want to miss games," he said. "I want to be on the field, I want to provide everything I can for this team."
The Cowboys have only gone through three OTAs, and those are obviously unpadded – a far cry from what awaits them at training camp. But Prescott has been impressed by his newest weapon. Echoing Lal, Prescott said Cobb's intelligence and experience are evident on the practice field.
"I think that's going to be the best thing that helps him pick everything up and just get going and be a big-time player in this offense," he said. "His background of playing quarterback really shows, when he's asking 'What number am I on the read' or when he's supposed to come in and block a guy that's in the box, and you don't even have to motion him – you look up and he's already in the box."
If this translates as well as the Cowboys hope, it would be a coup for their fourth-year quarterback. Prescott lacked reliable targets that could keep the chains moving last year – which is something both Cobb and Jason Witten should be able to help with. The Cowboys also lacked explosive plays, which Cobb has provided plenty of in his career.
From talking to him, Prescott is well aware of these facts. And now that the Cowboys have gone and gotten Cobb, the task will be getting the most out of him.
"I mean, honestly, put him in the backfield, put him outside, put him inside, ask him to block, ask him to take a jet sweep," Prescott said. "I mean, he's got film doing all those things and doing all those things really well. I think if we're not utilizing all of his athleticism and just his versatility, then we're cheating him as a player and we're not getting everything we want as an offense."