FRISCO, Texas – The month of February is always the transition period from one season to the next. The 2019 season is in the rearview mirror, especially with a brand-new coaching staff in place.
The next step for the team is player personnel, which mostly takes place in March with the start of free agency. The first day of the new league year is March 18, although the Cowboys will have several other decisions to make before then, thanks to 25 unrestricted free agents.
Before we get too far down the road, let's take an overview at each position, finding out what they've got, what they need and some big decisions to make.
Today, we'll break down the quarterback position.
Coach In Charge: Doug Nussmeier
You might know Nussmeier as the Cowboys' tight ends coach these last two years, but this is actually the job he's most qualified for.
Not only did Nussmeier play quarterback in college and during a six-year professional career, he's been coaching the position for most of the last 20 years, with stops all over the college game and a brief stint with the St. Louis Rams. Asked about it, Nussmeier said he's excited to get back to where he's most comfortable.
"Working with the tight ends, like I said, those two years was enjoyable," he said. "But obviously I'm excited to get back to the quarterbacks, that's kind of been my natural position over time."
What They Have: A franchise quarterback
At this point, there's no way to have a conversation about Dak Prescott without it turning into a "First Take" debate.
Prescott has compiled an impressive resume over the past four years, helping the Cowboys average 10 wins per season with two playoff appearances and one playoff win. He made strides as a passer in 2019, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns while also limiting himself to just 11 interceptions.
At the same time, he is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, and the final season of his rookie contract saw his team struggle to an 8-8 finish with no playoff appearance. Considering that he now commands an expensive new contract, it's completely fair to expect more.
The Cowboys struck gold in 2016, as they found a guy who's capable of being a franchise quarterback at pick No. 135 in the draft. But Prescott is about to go from an unsung draft surprise to one of the most highly-paid players in the league. As he continues to rise, the expectations will go with him – and he has not met them yet.
Immediate Need: A backup plan
Make all the snarky comments you want, but Dak Prescott will be the Cowboys' starter in 2020, one way or another.
What we don't know is who will be with him and Doug Nussmeier in the quarterback room. Cooper Rush is a restricted free agent, so it should be fairly easy to bring him back. But does this new coaching staff want to? Rush was found and developed by the previous regime. Given his background working with quarterbacks, it's possible Mike McCarthy wants to bring in his own guy.
The Cowboys have avoided older quarterbacks in recent years, but perhaps that's another thing that changes under McCarthy. There are plenty of experienced backup options on the free agent market, from Chase Daniel to Chad Henne to Colt McCoy to A.J. McCarron. Or perhaps the front office wants to draft another developmental rookie, the way they did with Mike White two years ago.
It's a good bet Prescott will be on the roster. Right now, we have no idea what the rest of the depth chart will look like.
Biggest Question: What about this contract?
How much is there left to say or write about Prescott's looming contract extension? Most people thought a deal would be reached a long time ago – including Prescott himself, who admitted prior to the Super Bowl that he thought he'd be signed before the 2019 season.
Obviously, the season came and went with no deal, and now we wait. The Cowboys still have a month to work on something before free agency opens, but it's looking more and more likely that they'll have to use the franchise tag on their star quarterback.
If they do that, it opens up a new conversation. Prescott made it clear before the Super Bowl that he's not planning on spending much time around the team if he is tagged, and that could create a tense contract negotiation – similar to the one that followed Dez Bryant throughout the 2015 offseason.
The Cowboys have made it clear that signing Prescott is their top priority. For his part, he has made it clear he wants to be here. How it hasn't happened yet is anyone's guess. The waiting game, not to mention the eventual cost of the contract, will be the dominant storyline of the offseason until the two sides come to an agreement.