We’re getting into that time of year when NFL roster math is a big topic. It won’t be long before the Dallas Cowboys have to trim their roster down to 53 players, and one question is how many quarterbacks they will keep in 2020.
Dallas has gone different ways on this over the last several years. We’ve seen them keep just two; the clear starter and a trusted a veteran backup. We’ve also seen the Cowboys keep three QBs when the backup situation wasn’t clear, or they had a developmental guy they couldn’t risk losing.
Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton are the clear top two; that guaranteed starter and backup scenario. This would be bad news for roster-hopefuls Ben DiNucci and Clayton Thorson most seasons and may still prove to be their undoing in 2020.
But a big wrinkle here is that both Prescott and Dalton are only on one-year contracts this season. With both potentially becoming free agents in 2021, Dallas may be more inclined to hang on to and seriously develop one of their young prospects.
Sure, one of DiNucci or Thorson would likely land on the Cowboys’ practice squad if they don’t make the 53-man roster. And with the rule changes from the new collective bargaining agreement, they could even be active for games.
But that still leaves open the potential for other teams to poach them. And as we’ve seen through the years with guys like Matt Moore, Alex Tanney, or Cooper Rush, other teams will quickly swoop in if you leave even the slimmest potential of QB talent available.
Remember, Clayton Thorson was a 5th-round pick by the Eagles in 2019. The Cowboys did the swooping last year when Thorson didn’t make final cuts in Philly, deciding to switch to him for development over 2018 draft pick Mike White.
Ben DiNucci was taken in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft and could easily still be on other team’s radars. If Dallas leaves him vulnerable, they might lose him.
We’re not saying that the Cowboys would be willing to start either of these guys in 2021. They can still franchise Dak Prescott again if needed, or would likely look to free agency or the draft to fill a starting need at quarterback.
But there’s a good chance that Andy Dalton won’t be back, and having some kind of backup plan in place will be a priority for Dallas as they make roster decisions now. If they have even mild faith in one of their young prospects this year, the future uncertainty at QB could help Ben DiNucci or Clayton Thorson make the roster in 2020.