The Dallas Cowboys‘ interest in Jalen Hurts registers somewhere between due diligence and a smokescreen. That is, if you take Stephen Jones at face value.
The Cowboys executive vice president downplayed the team’s recent virtual interview with the dual-threat Oklahoma quarterback, which he claims was neither an indictment on Dak Prescott’s starting job nor a sign that oft-stalled contract negotiations with the franchise-tagged incumbent are beyond repair.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with Dak’s contract in terms of our interest in a quarterback,” Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. “We’re always looking to get better … always looking to have a good back-up situation, especially if it’s a young player who can develop. I think you’re going down the wrong path when you equate it to Dak’s situation, his contract situation. I don’t think it equates to what we’re looking at there.”
A projected Day 2 pick in next week’s NFL draft, Hurts is a dynamic athlete equally capable of burning defenses through the air and on the ground. The one-and-done Sooners standout and 2018 Alabama national champion threw for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns and ran for 1,298 yards and 20 scores last season alone, en route to first-team All-Big 12 and Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year honors.
Hurts clocked a 4.59 forty time and recorded a 35.0-inch vertical jump during February’s Scouting Combine. He checked in at 6-foot-1, 222 pounds with 9 3/4-inch hands and 31 3/4-inch arms. He’s a natural-born leader and winner (38-4 career record) who boasts a knack for delivering in the clutch.
To this end, NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein compares Hurts to ex-Florida Gators superstar and short-lived Denver Broncos savior Tim Tebow.
“Like Tim Tebow, Hurts is a winning dual-threat quarterback known for his strength, toughness and character,” Zierlein wrote in his scouting profile. “Hurts is a more accurate passer and better runner than Tebow but is inconsistent as a decision-maker and tends to break the pocket when throws are there to be made. His deep-ball touch and intermediate accuracy improved this year so teams may see him as a developmental talent who will keep getting better in the right scheme. He’ll struggle to beat NFL defenses from the pocket, but his ability to grind out yards on the ground and make off-schedule plays should make him a solid backup with upward mobility.”
Buried below the likes of Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa in this year’s top-heavy QB class, Hurts is likely to come off the board in the second or third round. He’s not an option for the Cowboys’ No. 17 overall selection, but Nos. 51 and 82 are his target ranges.
If he’s still available, Jones and the brain trust could heavily weigh their options, and possibly pull the trigger. If not, the club may turn its attention to FIU QB James Morgan, a Day 3 prospect whom the Cowboys are “legitimately” interested in.
Dallas currently has just one QB — Cooper Rush, retained for 2020 on a $2.1 million restricted free-agent tender — stationed behind Prescott.
Speaking of which, the two-time Pro Bowler, who’s angling to become the highest-paid player in league history, reportedly won’t participate in the Cowboys’ virtual offseason program, barring agreement on a long-term deal.
Jones pushed back against a potential Prescott holdout from non-mandatory, off-field, remote sessions.
“I’m not necessarily aware of that,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan, reacting to speculation from Pro Football Talk. “He certainly was sent an iPad, and I know he certainly can participate. For every player, it’s voluntary in terms of their participation in the virtual meetings. I’m not aware and haven’t been made aware of to what degree Dak’s participation level would be.”
The Cowboys and Prescott have until July 15 to reach an accord, assuming NFL-mandated deadlines are left unchanged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 26-year-old, coming off a career season, has yet to sign his exclusive franchise tender, worth $31.5 million for 2020.
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Jones Addresses Swirling Draft-Day Trade Rumors
Remember Jamal Adams? The all-star Jets safety who came thisclose to joining the Cowboys at last year’s trade deadline? He might be back on the block, and Dallas might be calling once again.
There’s increasing buzz that Adams won’t attend New York’s offseason program as he stumps for a new contract. Which means there’s a conceivable chance he’s shipped elsewhere. Which means Jones was forced to broach the subject during his radio interview Friday, and he didn’t exactly throw cold water on it.
“I think you have to be open at all times to improving your team,” he said, per The Athletic.
While Adams is a helluva player with Texas roots, Dallas filled its hole at safety — created by the free-agent departure of Jeff Heath — by signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, presumably to start opposite Xavier Woods.
There’s also the roadblock of Adams’ next contract, which is sure to vault him among the sport’s richest safeties. It’d be borderline irresponsible to break the bank on a non-premium position while Prescott, the organizational cornerstone, is left wanting.
A more plausible outcome is the Cowboys using their first-round pick (No. 17 overall) on a defensive back such as Alabama S Xavier McKinney or LSU S Grant Delpit. There, too, is speculation the team could trade back into the 20s to select a pass-rusher or cornerback.
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL