Did the Dallas Cowboys just ignite a quarterback competition?
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Cowboys on Saturday signed former Cincinnati Bengals starting QB Andy Dalton to a one-year, $7 million contract, which includes $3 million in guarantees.
Dalton received his walking papers from the Bengals on May 30, after the club drafted former LSU QB Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick. Dalton’s release ended a decade-long tenure highlighted by three Pro Bowl selections, yet blackened by perpetual mediocrity.
A 2011 second-round choice out of TCU, Dalton has continuously vacillated between below-average to good as an NFL signal-caller. He’s thrown for over 31,500 yards, 204 touchdowns, and 118 interceptions on 62-percent passing across nine professional seasons, compiling a 70-61-2 career regular-season record. He’s never won a playoff game — 0-4.
Yards-wise, Dalton last year enjoyed his best campaign since 2016, completing 314 of 528 balls for 3,494 yards, 16 TDs, and 14 INTs. He was sacked 37 times and lost four fumbles as the rebuilding Bengals tanked to a 2-14 mark.
Cincinnati attempted to trade Dalton this offseason but unsurprisingly found no takers, the entire NFL world knowing Burrow was coming to town and his predecessor was bound for the unemployment line. No suitors were willing to surrender compensation when Dalton could simply be signed once on the open market.
Suffice it to say, the 32-year-old’s drawn-out divorce wasn’t entirely amicable.
“This year there were a good amount of quarterbacks that were available. I think it would have worked out differently if I had been a free agent when the new league year started,” Dalton told Bengals.com earlier this week. “I was still under contract and that hurt me. I’m sure teams knew they were going to take a quarterback No. 1 and they would release me and there was no reason to rush into anything.”
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This sends a clear-cut message to franchise-tagged incumbent Dak Prescott, who’s embroiled in megadeal discussions with the organization. It’s one thing to have Cooper Rush stationed behind you; it’s quite another to have a three-time Pro Bowler with years of starting experience — more experience than Prescott.
The job should remain Prescott’s to lose, but the Cowboys bought themselves some leverage in the event negotiations get messy. Judging by his pay structure, Dalton will slide in as the No. 2 ahead of Rush, who’s now a candidate for release unless Dallas carries three QBs on the 53-man roster (they carried two in 2019).
Jerry Jones and company, perhaps unwilling to cave to Dak, have crowded their QB room. Aside from Dalton’s arrival and Rush’s return, the team used a seventh-round pick on James Madison product Ben DiNucci, whom Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy compared to ex-Rams starter Marc Bulger.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL