Would the Dallas Cowboys move on from Dak Prescott for Trevor Lawrence?
Following the events of the 2020 NFL regular season thus far, the thought of the Dallas Cowboys doing anything but signing quarterback Dak Prescott to a long-term contract next year is unimaginable. After all, the Cowboys’ offense went from averaging 32.6 points per game with Prescott starting under center to just 14.6 without him.
That after the fifth-year passer suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week Five against the New York Giants that not only crippled the Cowboys’ offense but sunk team morale as well. Since Prescott’s injury, Dallas has lost five out of their last six games and has often done so in blowout fashion.
The Cowboys are certainly a shell of themselves without Prescott leading them. And that makes a strong case for the Dallas brass to give in and make the former fourth-rounder the highest-paid player in NFL history next offseason.
But doing so will only further financially handcuff a franchise riddled with terrible contracts. The Cowboys have seen players like running back Ezekiel Elliott and linebacker Jaylon Smith severely underperform after locking in their recent long-term extensions.
Adding Prescott’s potential $40 million+ per year contract to the mix will only further limit the team’s options, not only for adding talent to the roster, but also keeping it. A perfect example took place this offseason when Dallas opted to sign their pending free agent quarterback to the exclusive franchise tag, at a cost of $31.4 million.
The Cowboys elected to ink wide receiver Amari Cooper to a five-year, $100 million extension as well. That left no pie leftover to retain the team’s Pro Bowl cornerback, Byron Jones, who moved on to join the Miami Dolphins as a free agent.
So while the idea of not re-signing a known commodity like Prescott, who is a well-respected leader in the locker room, is almost unthinkable, the cost to retain him will absolutely limit the amount of talent the Dallas brass can surround him with. And remember, this is already a Cowboys’ team that’s posted a 2-3 record with Dak under center this season, and an 8-8 record last year.
But would the Cowboys consider moving on from Prescott and easing those financial constraints if it meant landing the top quarterback prospect in the upcoming NFL draft? The folks over at Pro Football Focus think it should be a consideration.
According to PFF, Lawrence should consider going the “Eli Manning” route if he doesn’t want to play for the moribund New York Jets franchise next season. The Jets have a current record of 0-11 and are the favorites to land the top selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Back in 2004, Manning refused to play for the San Diego Chargers, who drafted him anyway with the top pick. But his stance forced the Chargers to trade him to the New York Giants, who went on to win two Super Bowls with him under center.
What PFF is suggesting is that Lawrence, the projected top player in the upcoming draft by most accounts, make a similar proclamation to the Jets. And by doing so, possibly opening the door to a trade that lands him in Dallas.
The trade being proposed by PFF is Prescott being sent to the Jets in a sign-and-trade, making New York’s franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future. The two teams would swap first-round selections, allowing the Cowboys to nab Lawrence with the top pick. Or the Jets could simply draft Lawrence and then trade him to Dallas.
The benefit for the Cowboys is clear. They’d have the draft’s top quarterback prospect under center at a more manageable cap number and under contract for the next four years, with a fifth-year option to boot. And with that extra salary cap space, Dallas could make more moves to improve their roster due to not having to be on the hook for Prescott’s expected massive contract.
But that would also mean that the Cowboys would be without their uncontested team leader and a player they’ve been developing for five years. Yet, with a new head coach and coaching staff being installed this season, that past investment might not count for as much.
As for Lawrence, he’s been on draftniks’ radars for years after winning a National Championship for Clemson as a true freshman back in 2018. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound passer has thrown for 2,236 yards, 19 touchdowns, and only two interceptions while completing 70.6 of his passes as a junior in seven games this season. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah believes Lawrence compares most favorably to the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson.
In the end, the traditionally conservative Dallas Cowboys often prefer to stick with the players they know rather than the players they don’t. They know Dak Prescott. They love Dak Prescott. They’d don’t know Trevor Lawrence. It might be as simple as that.