The roster turnover has officially begun. Free agency is now underway and the 2017 NFL Draft isn't far away. Over the next few weeks, the Cowboys will lose and replace a sizable portion of their roster.
For every new face, however, there are dozens of familiar ones who will return to begin a new campaign. From established veterans to second-year players, the vast majority of the Cowboys' 2017 team is already on the roster. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
Today we'll continue the series with quarterback Dak Prescott.
What's Been Good: How long do you have? Almost everything has been good for the 23-year-old, who has seen a meteoric rise to the top of the NFL since injuries opened the door for him to try his hand as the Cowboys' starter.
It's easy to think back to August, 2016, when Tony Romo fractured his vertebrae and the Cowboys' season seemed once again to be over before it could start. Rather than watch another four-month train wreck, though, Prescott intervened. After a last-second loss to New York in the season opener, the Cowboys ripped off 11-straight wins with the rookie quarterback in the starting role. It was impressive enough to relegate Romo to the backup role – which at one point seemed unfathomable.
Prescott finished his rookie season with 3,667 passing yards and 23 touchdowns, completing 67.8 percent of his passes in the process. Perhaps most impressively for a rookie quarterback, he threw just four interceptions on the year. His passer rating was an absurd 104.9 for the year. Factor in his franchise-record six rushing touchdowns, and it's understandable how he won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
What's Been Bad:You're not going to be the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys and not take criticism. Plenty of people will point out that the Cowboys went one-and-done in the playoffs, despite earning the NFC's No. 1 seed. The Cowboys fell into a 21-3 hole in an eventual 34-31 loss to Green Bay, and Prescott threw an ugly interception to Micah Hyde in the process.
Those blips on the radar are there if you look for them. Prescott had a short rough patch in December, when he was challenged by tough defensive outings from Minnesota and New York. He found a way to overcome the Vikings, but his 17-of-37, two-interception outing on a snowy night against the Giants was the low point of his season.
Still, it's hard to be overly critical of a guy who earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie starter at the game's most important position.
2016 Highlight: The Halloween win against Philadelphia was not the best outing of Prescott's season – in fact it wasn't close. There are way better examples of his flawless play style, such as the late-season wins against Tampa Bay and Detroit.
Back to the Eagles, though. The Philadelphia defense frustrated Prescott for much of the night, as he went to halftime having completed just 5-of-13 passes for 118 yards. He also threw just his second interception of the season when he tried to force a play in the Philadelphia red zone.
But those struggles made his rebound that much more impressive. The Cowboys found themselves trailing, 23-13, with just 13:05 to play in the game when a Tyrone Crawford fumble recovery gave them new life. From then on, Prescott was on. He guided the Cowboys on scoring drives of three plays and 11 plays, which was enough to force overtime.
The Cowboys won the coin toss, and the rest is history. Prescott guided the Cowboys to the game-winning touchdown, completing 5-of-5 passes for 51 yards – the last of which went to Jason Witten to clinch the win.
It wasn't an amazing game statistically, but it was staggering to see a rookie quarterback dig himself out of a hole and will his team to a win. After the season, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan pointed toward that game as Prescott's standout moment.
What's Next:Prescott's amazing performance has the Cowboys standing at the most intriguing crossroads in the NFL.
Romo remains on the roster and is set to make $24.7 million as the result of the massive extension he signed in 2013. Despite that, it's hard to imagine the Cowboys giving the starting job back to him – not after Prescott guided them to a 13-3 record.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has not committed to a decision regarding Romo. He has even expressed optimism that both quarterbacks could remain on the roster in 2017 – saying that Prescott has a tough psyche that could withstand the pressure of having Romo behind him on the depth chart.[embeddedad0]
Still, it's hard to imagine the Cowboys want to pay that much money to their backup quarterback. It's also hard to imagine that Romo wants to spend the final years of his career serving as a backup.
It's hard to predict, but it certainly seems likely that the Cowboys will part ways with Romo – their starter for the last 10 years – sometime this year. If that happens, it will be with the clear understanding that Dak Prescott has become the face of their future.