In a football universe aligned with Jerry Jones’ grandest wishes, quarterback Trey Lance would never need to take a snap for the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, it’s Dak Prescott who would lead the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl championship since 1995, followed by the signing of the most monumental contract in NFL history.
Jerry Jones, the venerable owner and general manager, about to celebrate his 81st birthday in October, would finally quench a championship drought nearing three decades. Meanwhile, Lance would set his sights on revitalizing his career after the 2024 season.
However, as we’ve learned, ideal scenarios are a rare breed. The acquisition of Lance, traded from the San Francisco 49ers for a fourth-round pick last Friday, offers the Cowboys a measure of insurance.
For a team that endured eight different starting quarterbacks in the wake of Troy Aikman’s retirement after the 2000 season, until Tony Romo’s emergence in 2006, this move represents a cautious nod to history.
During those intervening years, the Cowboys experimented with Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, and Drew Bledsoe. Those were not the glory years for America’s Team.
Fast forward to the present, and the Cowboys believe they have a roster primed for success, boasting talents like Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyler Smith, Malik Hooker, Michael Gallup, and promising younger players secured beyond 2023.
Prescott, the face of the franchise, is locked in through 2024. He’s due to earn $29 million next season and carries a substantial $59.4 million cap hit. While extending his contract is on the horizon, it hasn’t garnered significant discussion thus far.
Prescott, at 30, has weathered his share of injuries, missing 17 starts in the past three seasons due to various ailments. However, he seems rejuvenated, having participated in every offseason program and training camp rep for the first time in four years, entering the September 10 opener against the New York Giants in peak physical condition.
With Prescott’s age, tenure as the starter, and sky-high expectations, 2023 carries immense pressure.
Depending on how this season unfolds, the Cowboys might find themselves in a quarterback-hunting mode in the 2024 NFL Draft, given Prescott’s contract status.
The degree of their draft pick investment will hinge on the year’s outcome, with options ranging from targeting a top prospect like Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, albeit not necessarily with a high first-round pick, to considering selections above the late-Day 3 range.
Trey Lance brings a unique dynamic to the equation. The Cowboys will hold his contractual rights through 2025 should they exercise the fifth-year option after this season, although that would come with a significant price tag.
The Green Bay Packers demonstrated a creative approach with Jordan Love, opting for a one-year extension to circumvent a costly fifth-year option in 2024.
Sources indicate that the Cowboys assigned a second-round grade to Lance, an impressive mark for the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 draft.
Throughout their history, the Cowboys have shown a willingness to take chances on high draft picks from other teams, as exemplified by offensive tackle Marc Colombo and Malik Hooker, both former first-round selections who found success in Dallas.
The central question remains: Can Trey Lance deliver on the promise? The answer is an enigmatic one, even for the Cowboys. Yet, their gamble, symbolized by a mere fourth-round pick, appears calculated and carries a relatively low risk.
It’s a pick they fervently hope lands at the end of the round, as Prescott continues his mission to lead the Cowboys back to glory.
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