While there could still be a few free agent moves or even trades between now and the start of training camp, offseason business is mostly done for 2021. We're going to look at each position on the Dallas Cowboys roster to asses the changes and see if the team looks better or worse than last season. The review starts today with the quarterbacks.
The biggest move at QB was a neutral one; keeping Dak Prescott as the starter and locking him up for years to come. But considering he missed 11 games last year, getting a healthy Prescott back for hopefully all 17 games in 2021 could be considered an improvement.
There's always the concern that Dak's play will decline this year as he returns from the long absence and a major injury. But if anyone's going to put in the work to get back to 100% or better, it's a model football citizen like Prescott. So far, all reports about his offseason work have been exemplary.
2021 Offseason Movement at QB
Our real focus here is the next spot on the depth chart. Andy Dalton did enough amidst the Cowboys' chaos last year that the Chicago Bears signed him to be their new starter. While that may be short-lived now that Chicago's drafted Justin Fields, Dalton is still slated to be QB1 in Week One and should be able to hold the job for a while with good performance.
Dalton's departure made the backup QB job a focal point of the Cowboys' offseason for fans and onlookers. But while we pined for Alex Smith and tossed around other veteran options, so far Dallas has stood pat with Garrett Gilbert, Ben DiNucci, and Cooper Rush as carryover talent from last year.
Based on his solid play in the Cowboys' near upset of the Steelers in 2020, Gilbert is the perceived frontrunner for the backup job. But we all know how deceiving one game can be; just like DiNucci's one bad game against the Eagles isn't enough to dismiss him.
It appears we're headed to an all-out competition in 2021 training camp. How much Cooper Rush factors into that battle is hard to say, but Dallas did trust him to be Dak's backup from 2017-2019. The fact that the 27-year-old is still here over younger prospects isn't meaningless.
Over the last month Dallas has had free agent visits with veterans Jeff Driskel and Brett Hundley, indicating they're not fully satisfied with the current crop of depth options. Driskel has since signed with Houston but we could see Hundley or someone else added to the roster before camp.
But really, going back to our original premise, would any of these players be an upgrade or even an equal to Andy Dalton?
While DiNucci and Gilbert have upside to grow in their second seasons with the Cowboys, and for DiNucci his second year overall in the NFL, to assume they'll reach Dalton's proficiency level is more of a hope than an expectation. Andy was a former 1st-round pick who showed his ability to overcome adversity and keep Dallas semi-solvent despite a decimated offensive line and a historically bad defense.
Sure, Gilbert looked okay that one day against Pittsburgh. But it helped perception that DiNucci had set the bar very low the week before, plus we caught the Steelers just as they were going off a cliff. It also helped him that Dalton returned and allowed Garrett to rest on those one-game laurels.
Right now, the reasonable argument is that losing Andy Dalton and not replacing him with a comparable veteran talent is a detriment to the Cowboys. There's always a chance that one of the current prospects or a yet-seen addition could change that, but Dalton's left a void of experience and confidence at backup QB which can't be ignored.
Hopefully, Dak Prescott stays healthy and makes it so QB2 doesn't really matter this year.