Cowboys make most obvious Trey Lance decision imaginable

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Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys / Ron Jenkins/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys were praised when they traded for Trey Lance. It was seen as a buy-low opportunity on a potential lottery ticket. Less than six months later, though, the trade has aged terribly. That would almost be an understatement.

It reared its ugly head during the NFL Draft. The Cowboys watched some of the best remaining running backs in the 2024 class come off the board in round four, including Jaylen Wright, Bucky Irving, Isaac Guerendo, Ray Davis and Braelon Allen.

It was a 2024 fourth-round pick that Dallas sent to the 49ers for Lance. While reuniting with Ezekiel Elliott was a sound move, its far from ideal that the team failed to come away from the draft with a new running back.

It's a mystery what the Cowboys' plan is with Lance. What's been painfully obvious, though, was their inevitable decision to decline the QB's fifth-year option, which was confirmed by ESPN reporter Todd Archer on Wednesday.

Cowboys officially decline Trey Lance's fifth-year option for 2025

This has been a foregone conclusion since the trade was announced. Lance's fifth-year option would've fully guaranteed him $22.4 million for 2025. Lance served as the Cowboys' emergency third-string quarterback last year and was inactive for all 17 games.

In Dallas' defense, not a single first-round QB from the 2021 draft had their fifth-year option exercised. The problem is that Dak Prescott will count $40.137 million against the salary cap in 2025 regardless of where he plays whether it be in Dallas or elsewhere. Even if Prescott leaves in free agency, he'll cost the Cowboys $40 million on the cap.

Prescott already has the team hanging over a barrel. His 2025 cap number gives him even more leverage in contract negotiations and makes an extension all the more likely. Assuming Prescott is extended, the Cowboys will have quite the Lance predicament on their hands.

Cooper Rush and Lance are both free agents after next season. It's possible Lance beats out Rush for the backup job in training camp and is re-signed to serve as Prescott's backup. If Prescott leaves, Lance would give Dallas a young bridge QB with upside.

However, it's just as likely that Lance isn't on the roster next year. If Lance reaches free agency, what sense would it make to re-sign with the Cowboys if Prescott gets extended? He'd likely go somewhere he has a realistic chance of playing. In that scenario, the front office would have absolutely nothing to show for this year's fourth-round pick.

Lance's option getting declined doesn't foreshadow anything about his future in Dallas, but it's trending in the direction of being a waste of resources.

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