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QB: There’s Only 1 Thing Left To Figure Out Here
This week, we’re taking a closer look at the quarterback position. From the big news that occurred in signing Andy Dalton to the latest on Dak’s contract situation, let’s analyze what is really going on at quarterback.
By Nick Eatman May 08, 2020

With the NFL Draft completed and free agency at least slowing down here as the summer approaches, it's time to take a closer look at every position.

Each day, we will dissect a different aspect about the position, ranging from position battles, to under-the-radar players, to simply answering questions that have yet to be resolved.

This week, we'll start with the quarterback position.

Need To Figure Out

There’s Only 1 Thing Left To Figure Out Here

Need To Figure Out:

There's not much to figure out as far as the depth chart. What needs to be figured out, of course, is Dak Prescott's contract. Now, the Cowboys have covered themselves with the franchise tag that will pay him over $31 million this season if there is no long-term deal reached before July 15.

So Prescott will be the quarterback, and he will be paid handsomely this season. But without a deal – a situation that has dragged out for over a year now – you have to wonder where Prescott's mind will be this offseason. There has been some speculation, but nothing confirmed, that he will sit out the offseason program, especially if it's strictly virtual, to gain some leverage in the negotiations.

As for now, the virtual offseason is only voluntary and according to Mike McCarthy last week, Prescott has been communicating with his teammates and coaches.

That's really the biggest thing the Cowboys have to sort out regarding the quarterbacks. Barring injury, it looks like Prescott, Andy Dalton and probably Ben DiNucci will be the top three quarterbacks on the roster.

But that lingering contract certainly needs to be sorted out.

Ready to Compete

Where’s the Real Competition Coming From?

Ready to Compete:

On the surface, everyone from Mike McCarthy, to both Jerry and Stephen Jones, to the quarterbacks themselves will likely say that every player is battling for a roster spot. And while Andy Dalton has the experience and pedigree to start for an NFL team, it's not likely to be here in Dallas.

The Cowboys are committed to Dak Prescott as their starter, and it's very unlikely that Dalton would come in and battle for starting reps. And along those lines, the fact Dalton has a $3 million guarantee is reason alone that he'll be the backup, which is why the Cowboys wasted no time in cutting Cooper Rush on Monday.

Rookie Ben DiNucci has a good chance to make the team, considering he is a developmental quarterback. His only real competition will come in the form of Clayton Thorsen, who spent last year on the Cowboys' practice squad.

It's a high-profile position, but it doesn't seem like there will be a lot of clear-cut competition this year.

Don't Forget About ...

New Roster Rule Should Help 7th-Round Pick

Don't Forget About …

The new roster rules have expanded to 55 players, adding two spots. And on game day, the roster limit moves up from 46 to 48.

When you think about the Cowboys usually dressing just two quarterbacks on game day, it makes sense that one of these extra spots will go to a quarterback, and that should pave the way for a player such as Ben DiNucci.

The seventh-round pick from James Madison actually grew up in Pittsburgh, as did head coach Mike McCarthy. Why does that matter? Well, obviously McCarthy isn't going to play hometown favorites when it comes to shaping the final roster, but there was a reason DiNucci was on McCarthy's radar nearly 10 years ago. And the signing of Andy Dalton really doesn't factor much into DiNucci's chances of making the team. The only real competition would be in the form of Clayton Thorsen.

But as a draft pick, and one with ties to the head coach, the extra roster spots should give DiNucci a legitimate opportunity to make this team.

What We Know

Does Dalton Affect Dak’s Contract Talks?

What We Know:

Despite some of the recent additions, including a veteran backup with over 130 starts, Dak Prescott is still the focal point of the position – and even the entire team.

Sure, he hasn't signed his franchise tender yet, but it's an exclusive offer from the Cowboys and don't expect anything to change – other than him either signing on the dotted line or finalizing a long-term contract that will end all of this uncertainty regarding the Cowboys' most recognizable player.

The team has until July 15 to get a long-term contract completed, otherwise Prescott and the Cowboys won't be able to renegotiate until the following March. At that point, he could test the free agency waters or Dallas could give him another franchise tag, which would be even more expensive and likely cause even more drama between the two sides.

As it stands now, the Cowboys seemingly have no plans to shake up the position – despite signing Andy Dalton over the weekend.

The Cowboys have made it clear from the start that Prescott is their quarterback of the future. At this point, the two sides just need to come together on a long-term deal or Prescott signs his tender.

Either way, nothing has changed in terms of the direction the Cowboys are taking.

What's New

Dalton Brings Instant Experience to QB Room

What's New?

The one position that actually had big news over the last couple of days is the quarterback position. And it wasn't just big for the Cowboys; it seemed to surprise the entire NFL community as well.

Andy Dalton, just recently cut by the Bengals, has signed with the Cowboys, making him one of the most experienced backups in the league – and certainly one of the more seasoned No. 2 quarterbacks Dallas has had in recent years.

On Monday, the Cowboys officially waived Cooper Rush, who had backed up Dak Prescott the last three seasons. Rush, who signed a restricted free agent tender back in March, has only thrown three career passes.

The fact that Prescott hasn't been injured is one reason to wonder why the Cowboys would guarantee $3 million for Dalton's services. But don't forget, this is a new era of Cowboys football under Mike McCarthy, who not only coached in Green Bay, but drafted Aaron Rodgers when he had Brett Favre. He also drafted five quarterbacks in 13 years despite having those two legends.

So McCarthy not only likes the insurance, but sees the value of having a competitive quarterback room.

And until the Cowboys' front office says something different, that is going to be the angle to take from this move. This is about having experience at the position and little to do with the fact that Prescott has yet to sign his franchise tag tender.

Dalton has played nine years in the NFL, compiling a 70-61-2 record in the regular season. He's 0-4 in the playoffs but hasn't been since 2016. Dalton and the entire Bengals organization has struggled the last four years (20-35-1 as a starter), which led to the drafting of LSU's Joe Burrow with the No. 1 pick just two weeks ago.

Overall, Dalton has a career 87.5 passer rating and was 40-23-1 in his first four seasons with the Bengals, compared to Prescott's 40-24 record after four years.

But Dalton isn't the only quarterback added to the group here in the last week. The Cowboys drafted Ben DiNucci in the seventh round out of James Madison, making him just the ninth quarterback in the last 31 years selected by the franchise.

Both Dalton and DiNucci could make the roster, but like most teams, the Cowboys would ideally prefer that neither of him takes a meaningful snap in 2020.

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