Just a couple of days after the Bengals released QB Andy Dalton, the Cowboys are bringing him back home. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, Dallas is signing the Texas native to a one-year, $3MM deal that can reach $7MM with incentives (Twitter link).
One immediate response to the signing is that it could be a leverage play for the Cowboys in their continuing negotiations with Dak Prescott. But according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, that is not the case (Twitter link). Rather, Dallas believes it has a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl this year, and it’s not often that a team can add a quality, highly-experienced backup this late in the offseason.
And while Jelani Scott of NFL.com writes that Dalton is happy to be returning to his home state, the fact that he is signing with the Cowboys knowing that he will be the backup is telling. We heard immediately after Dalton’s release that the Patriots and Jaguars were interested in his services, and the three-time Pro Bowler would have theoretically had an opportunity to compete for the starting job with those clubs. So as Albert Breer of SI.com observes, perhaps New England’s and Jacksonville’s reported interest amounted to little more than due diligence (Twitter link).
On the other hand, Todd Archer of ESPN.com says Dalton’s decision to sign with the Cowboys was at least partially motivated by the coronavirus. Given the uncertainty created by the pandemic, Dalton — who lives in Dallas — was eager to stay at home even if that meant eschewing a better opportunity elsewhere (though since teams’ offseason programs look like they will remain virtual for the foreseeable future, it seems as if a better opportunity simply wasn’t presenting itself).
The last report concerning Prescott and the Cowboys suggested that negotiations between the two sides were going very well. Prescott has his detractors — just like Dalton — but he has not missed a game in his four-year career, and Dallas certainly hopes that trend will continue in 2020. But if Prescott does miss time, Dallas will have the luxury of inserting a capable signal-caller who has guided his team to the playoffs and who has a winning record over 133 games as a starting QB.
And Dalton, who expressed disappointment that the Bengals did not release him early enough for him to have a chance to catch on with a team that had not already addressed its quarterback position, will have the opportunity to truly explore unrestricted free agency in 2021, when the market will presumably be much less robust than it was this year.
The Cowboys are also rostering Cooper Rush, who has served as Prescott’s backup in each of the past three seasons. Rush is set to earn a non-guaranteed $2.1MM in 2020, but while the team doesn’t have a ton of cap space, it probably has enough to sign its draft class and get through the season (especially if Prescott signs a multi-year deal, which should lower his 2020 number). So even though Rush will be demoted to QB3, he still has a good chance of making the team.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.