FRISCO, Texas — In Jerry Jones’ ideal world, quarterback Trey Lance never plays a down for the Dallas Cowboys.
Instead, Dak Prescott leads the Cowboys to a Super Bowl championship this season for the first time since 1995. He then signs the largest contract in NFL history. Jones, the owner and general manager, who turns 81 in October, takes comfort in ending a championship drought that was closing in on 30 years. And Lance moves on after 2024, looking to jumpstart his career again.
But ideal worlds are hard to come by, and the addition of Lance, who was acquired from the San Francisco 49ers for a fourth-round pick Friday, provides the Cowboys with some cover.
Remember, this is a franchise that, after seeing Troy Aikman retire following the 2000 season, started eight different quarterbacks until Tony Romo, an undrafted free agent in 2003, started in 2006 and held the job for the next 10 seasons.
In between, they went with Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf, Clint Stoerner, Chad Hutchinson, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson and Drew Bledsoe.
Those teams from 2001 to 2005 were not ready to win the way the Cowboys believe this team is with a nucleus that includes Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyler Smith, Malik Hooker, Michael Gallup and solid younger players signed beyond 2023.
Prescott is signed through 2024. He is set to make $29 million next season and count $59.4 million against the salary cap. Moving on after this season would be far too costly from a cap perspective but not impossible. Jones has mentioned the desire to extend Prescott’s contract, but there has not been much discussion about a new deal.
Prescott, who turned 30 last month, has missed 17 starts in the past three seasons due to a dislocated and fractured right ankle, a calf strain and broken right thumb. Prescott took every rep in the offseason program and training camp for the first time in what he estimated was four years, saying he feels healthy as ever as the Sept. 10 opener against the New York Giants approaches.
Given his age, years as starter and expectations, he is facing a pressure-packed 2023.
Depending on how this season goes, the Cowboys will have to at least look at selecting a quarterback high in the draft in 2024 given Prescott’s contract status. Maybe not as high as moving way up in the first round to take a top prospect like Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, but certainly not as low as a late-Day 3 pick.
In Lance, the Cowboys will have his contractual rights through 2025 if they exercise the fifth-year option after this season, although that would be pricey as well. The Green Bay Packers worked around a fifth-year option for Jordan Love in 2024 by giving him a one-year extension at a lower cost than the option this season but guaranteed him more up-front money.
The Cowboys had a second-round grade on Lance, who went No. 3 overall in the 2021 draft, per multiple sources. They have been willing to give chances to high draft picks that have not panned out on other teams over the years, like offensive tackle Marc Colombo, a first-round pick by the Chicago Bears in 2002 who was beset by injuries. The Cowboys signed him in 2005, and he was their right tackle for the next five seasons. Hooker, a former first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts, is another example.
Those two proved they could play. Can Lance actually play? Nobody — even the Cowboys — knows. But the Cowboys’ risk is only a fourth-round pick.
A pick that they hope will be at the end of the round because Prescott delivers.
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