We are just days into the 2022 NFL season, and a whole seven months away from the 2023 NFL Draft, but the latter is what most Dallas Cowboys fans have been discussing since the team’s brutal defeat in Week 1.
Everything that could go wrong for Dallas on Sunday did. Severe injuries to Jayron Kearse, Connor McGovern, and Dak Prescott have hurt them long-term, and the atrocious performance on the field cost them a crucial opening game against a good team.
The most notable and important of the injuries is of course the team’s QB1. He suffered a fracture in his right thumb, and while initial reports said he would miss 6-8 weeks, owner Jerry Jones now says Prescott could miss as few as four games.
Regardless of the in-season complications that this injury will cause, the bigger picture of Prescott’s future with this team could come into question given this is his second major injury in the last three seasons.
The thumb injury, as well as his disappointing performance prior to being knocked out of the game, has sparked questions amongst the fanbase about Prescott’s future. Some are asking if a star-studded draft class at quarterback in 2023 could draw the Jones family away from No. 4.
Will the Cowboys consider replacing Dak Prescott in the 2023 Draft?
The Cowboys’ outlook right now is bleaker than ever, though it’s hardly surprising. During the offseason, the front office depleted the roster of talent, depth, and experience while simultaneously gaining virtually nothing in the process.
On the surface, the decision to blow up the 2021 roster and collect nothing but cap space was just bad front office moves. But, maybe there is a bigger picture in mind that includes a total revamp of the organization.
It is not hard to imagine a world where Dallas finishes the regular season with a bad record, fires HC Mike McCarthy, and begins to move in a rebuilding direction. We have all seen the incredible trade values for elite veteran QBs recently. What’s to say the Cowboys wouldn’t look to take advantage of that?
The 2023 quarterback class is loaded with talent. From the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young to Ohio State standout C.J. Stroud, there are a ton of high potential options at the position come next April.
The college football world, as well as many Cowboys fans, got a front-row seat to Young’s ability this past Saturday against the Texas Longhorns.
After a slow start, he took off in the fourth quarter (when it mattered most), completing 15 of 19 passes in the fourth including two 60+ yard scoring drives. Young’s dual-threat ability is elite in a time when NFL teams are actively searching for QBs that can run and throw at the highest level.
It is no secret Prescott has been running less since his 2020 ankle injury, which has in some cases limited the offense. On the other hand, teams like Buffalo, Baltimore, and Arizona consistently harm defenses with the versatility their quarterbacks bring.
The other pink elephant in the room in this discussion is the mass of Prescott’s 2021 contract extension. His guaranteed money and total salary cap would surely cause complications in a potential trade, but moving away from it regardless of how much money they would have to eat could be appealing to the higher-ups.
The question of if Dallas will consider it really relies on how this season finishes. If Prescott comes back quickly, plays well, and wins games, they would stay far away from a rookie starter. If things continue to go badly, however, they could realistically consider it.
Should the Cowboys actually target a first-round quarterback?
The downsides to this flashy idea cannot be ignored, as fascinating as this hypothetical trade-and-draft would be.
Perhaps the biggest drawback to this would be the financial situation, even with the Cowboys’ large surplus in the salary cap. A Prescott trade and first round rookie QB would dismantle that surplus overnight.
For starters, while rookie QBs aren’t getting paid as much as they use to, it is still a guaranteed $25 million+ contract on the books. Former top pick Trevor Lawrence got nearly $40 million in total, with over $24 million of it being guaranteed.
The other big issue would be in “dead cap,” as I mentioned. This is the money left behind by a player’s contract that the team still pays even if they move on from him. Prescott’s number would be massive.
A good example to look at is the Detroit Lions following the Matthew Stafford trade. Despite a strong haul in return, they were left with almost $20 million in dead cap, and as a result, they are 26th in cap space right now.
The huge problem for Dallas? Stafford was getting paid about $23 million less than Prescott will get in 2023. This means that the Cowboys’ total salary situation would be significantly worse than Detroit’s after a Prescott trade, and Detroit is still in salary cap turmoil because of that move.
This is all to say that while us fans are demanding changes and answers to so many of these pressing questions, moving on from Prescott in exchange for a shiny new first round QB might not be the answer realistically.
These next few months will be a roller coaster ride for Cowboys fans, but don’t expect a blockbuster quarterback trade to be a part of that, especially if Prescott comes back and plays well.