Cowboys worst possible Dak Prescott contingency plan thankfully isn’t likely

The Dallas Cowboys continue to play with fire. Will they get burned?
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

Look. Is Dak Prescott the second-best QB in the NFL? No, of course not. He did, however, finish second in MVP voting last season, behind only Lamar Jackson. He led the Dallas Cowboys to first place in a contested NFC East, putting up career-best numbers across the board. To complete 69.5 percent of your passes for 4,516 yards, 36 touchdowns, and nine interceptions is no minor accomplishment. Prescott was breathtaking last season.

So... why aren't the Cowboys extending him? Prescott enters the final year of his contract without a new deal from Dallas. It seems rather simple: pay the man. Every elite quarterback gets a major contract these days. Even Daniel Jones makes $40 million a year. The Cowboys certainly can't afford to let Prescott walk, even if paying him his worth makes navigating the rest of their finances a bit tricky.

And yet, the Cowboys haven't extended Prescott and don't appear particularly eager to get ink on paper. Instead, Dallas is playing the long game, hoping for Prescott to come down on his demands. We know the Cowboys want to keep Prescott, and Prescott wants to stay. It might not matter if Jerry Jones can't stomach the volume of cash necessary to keep Prescott around, though.

Dallas has a few alternative options, but none of them are particularly great. The obvious one is Trey Lance, who Jerry Jones traded for ahead of last season without consulting his front office. The Cowboys (read: Jones) liked Lance enough to burn a fourth-round pick on him. If he impresses in training camp or in a spot start, the momentum could snowball from there.

Still, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer cautions against believing too strongly in Lance.

"I’d start here with Trey Lance: He is, by all accounts (including my own), a fantastic kid and a good worker, and just got caught in a weird situation in San Francisco... And that’s to say I think it’s O.K. to hope he can become the Dallas Cowboys’ backup quarterback, and play well in spots, but it’s asking too much to think that he’ll be the right backup plan if somehow Dak Prescott isn’t on the team in 2025."

Trey Lance probably won't be Cowboys' Dak Prescott backup plan

Here's the simple truth about Trey Lance. He is the Cowboys' third-string quarterback. The circumstances that have befallen him since going No. 3 overall to San Francisco in the 2021 are unfortunate. There's no doubt about it. Lance never got his shot. But, despite trading real draft capital to land him, the Cowboys aren't even fully comfortable ranking Lance above Cooper Rush on the depth chart.

If Dallas can't commit to Lance as the contingency plan when Prescott gets hurt, how is he going to be the contingency plan when Prescott leaves in free agency?

The Cowboys are going to try to re-sign Prescott at some point. We have to believe that. The best possible alternative in free agency next offseason is, what, Tua Tagovailoa? The Cowboys may not believe Prescott is the tier-one QB his contract will indicate, but it's better to overpay the sixth best quarterback than it is to start the 26th best quarterback.

Lance has the physical tools, but none of the high-level experience or pedigree necessary to start games for a competitive and expensive Cowboys team. Jones has dolled out major contracts left and right. The Cowboys are going to pay Micah Parsons and CeeDee Lamb eventually. Dallas simply cannot — and will not — throw away a strong roster on an unproven, below-replacement level quarterback.

It's fair to wonder what the heck Dallas' front office is up to. It's a common theme with Jerry in charge. But, even the Cowboys aren't going to elevate a complete unknown to replace the reigning MVP runner-up. Maybe Dallas really does let Prescott slip through its fingers, but at least expect a more respectable backup plan. How much more respectable, I don't know. But more respectable than Trey Lance.

Quinn Ewers, come on down?

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