As a result, talking heads around the country have begun connecting the dots, envisioning scenarios where the Cowboys — who own the No. 17 overall pick in April’s NFL draft — acquire the former Alabama star quarterback, a projected top-five selection.
FOX Sports’ Doug Gottlieb, for example, urged the Cowboys to cut a deal for the No. 3 overall choice, sending two first-rounders and linebacker Jaylon Smith to the Detroit Lions. This would leapfrog the Miami Dolphins (No. 5), the frontrunner to take Tua, and ensure Dallas nabs its next QB of the future, albeit at an extremely high cost.
“I’m not saying you trade Dak Prescott, I’m saying you let Dak Prescott potentially walk,” Gottlieb said of the impending unrestricted free agent, who may receive the franchise tag by March 10. “Here’s the logic behind it: If you could pull off a trade that lands you Tua Tagovailoa, you could be better off in terms of his ceiling. If you ask pundit upon pundit upon pundit upon analyst upon analyst, they may say, ‘Well, he’s gotten hurt in college because he’s tried to run. He’s not as athletic as maybe advertised.’ Everyone says he’s bright. He’s obviously a very good leader. He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s incredibly accurate.”
Indeed, Tagovailoa encapsulates those qualities, and then some. Such is the reason he’s the second-best signal-caller in this year’s draft, behind only LSU’s Joe Burrow, the predicted top overall pick. The lone red flag is Tua’s hip dislocation and posterior wall fracture, which he suffered in November and initially muddied his stock.
But that singular concern isn’t enough to sway Gottlieb, who dragged Dak over Dallas’ offensive inconsistencies this past season, laying out why he feels the two-time Pro Bowler doesn’t deserve cornerstone status with, nor a monster contract from, the organization.
“If you want to tell me that Dak Prescott’s awesome, that’s fine,” he said. “I saw him against the Philadelphia Eagles on the road. Cowboys fans will say, ‘Well, they don’t have a very good defense this year.’ It wasn’t the defense that scored nine points against the Eagles. It wasn’t the defense that scored on the opening drive of the first half and the second half against the Bears, and couldn’t move the ball outside of that. It wasn’t the defense — granted, it was in a monsoon — that scored nine points against the Patriots. The offense lit up the Redskins, the Giants, the Dolphins. They beat up on the bad teams, and against the good teams, there was a struggle. Some of it had to be playcalling, some of it had to be coaching. But some of it had to be quarterback play.”
Gottlieb added: “Dak Prescott statistically had a good year and all it got you was eight wins. If Jerry Jones wants to tell the world he’s a gambler, he’s a gunslinger, he’s an old cowboy, that he’s willing to take risks, why not take that risk? Why not?”
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Tua Leaks Desire to be Drafted by ‘Favorite’ Cowboys
So many stars need to align for the Cowboys to scribble Tagovailoa’s name on their draft card. So many.
First, and perhaps most crucially, the team must eschew a long-term contract with Prescott. Dallas would conclude that he is not the QB of the future — Tua is.
Second, Jerry Jones, who’s reportedly eyeing a “big splash,” would have to come to terms with the capital necessary to secure Tagovailoa’s services: a smattering of first- and second-round picks, current and future, and perhaps a notable player. It’ll take the farm to move from 17 to the top-five.
Third, Jones needs to find a trade partner, either the Giants (No. 4) or Lions, as Gottlieb suggested. It takes two to tango, and without his proverbial dance partner, the Tua dream will die on the vine. A move-up of this magnitude forever alters the course of the franchise, something the Cowboys’ czar would have to resign himself to.
If these requisites are met, Tagovailoa’s wish may come true by quarterbacking his “favorite team” from his formative years.
“If you’re saying to me if I could choose what team I want to play on as far as my favorite team growing up, then I’d probably tell you the Cowboys, but I mean they’re so far down,” he recently said, per Bleacher Report.
Tua clarified his comments to demonstrate no ill will toward Prescott. In fact, the 2018 national champion and Heisman runner-up, rehabbing his aforementioned hip injury, claims he wouldn’t mind beginning his professional career as a backup.
“I’d handle it the way that the coaches there want to handle it,” Tagovailoa said, per Bleacher Report. “I just want to be able to play again. I wouldn’t mind learning under whatever guy that’s the starter, give me a whole year to rest up, and then go back out there and compete. But I just want to go out there and play.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL