Cowboys Identify ‘Logical’ Favorite to Become 2021 Backup QB

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Regardless of whether Dak Prescott remains atop the depth chart, the Dallas Cowboys will be required to name a backup quarterback for the 2021 campaign.

An early but “logical” choice, per the team’s official website, is Garrett Gilbert, who ended last season as the No. 2 QB behind fill-in starter Andy Dalton, an impending free agent.

“The biggest quarterback question in Dallas continues to be, without question, Prescott’s contract status. The No. 2 spot is yet to be determined, too,” Rob Phillips of recently wrote. “Andy Dalton is set to be an unrestricted free agent after leading the Cowboys to three straight wins and the brink of the playoffs last season. For the first time in his career, he has a chance to hit the open market in March and seek a starting opportunity elsewhere. If that happens, Gilbert becomes a logical option to back up Prescott next season. He and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore spent one preseason together as backups with the Lions in 2015, so there’s some built-in familiarity there. The Cowboys could look to free agency or the draft for competition, but a tighter salary cap might impact those decisions more than in a normal year. Currently, Gilbert and last year’s seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci are the only QBs currently under contract, though the Cowboys have the option to franchise-tag Prescott for a second straight year if needed.”

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Refresher on Gilbert’s 2020 Appearance

Plucked off the Browns’ practice squad last October — the Cowboys needed insurance following Prescott’s season-ending ankle injury, Dalton’s concussion and bout with the coronavirus, and then-rookie Ben DiNucci’s disastrous debut — the former Alliance of American Football star more than held his own amid a Week 9 loss to Pittsburgh.

Withstanding continual pressure, Gilbert completed 21-of-38 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, adding 28 yards on three scrambles. He was (considering the circumstances) confident, accurate, and decisive in the 24-19 defeat.

His production led to wide receiver CeeDee Lamb topping 70 yards for the first time since Week 5. Fellow WR Amari Cooper (six catches, 67 yards) rebounded from his Week 8 stinker. The playcalling also more in tune; eight different players recorded at least one catch as the Cowboys bested the Steelers in total offense (364-355) and time of possession (33:24-26:36).

“I thought he definitely brought it from the practice field to the game,” head coach Mike McCarthy said after the game.

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Additional Gilbert Background

Gilbert entered the NFL in 2014 as a sixth-round draft pick of the then-St. Louis Rams. He bounced to the New England Patriots during his rookie campaign, where he earned a Super Bowl ring as a member of their practice squad.

The 29-year-old served on the Detroit Lions’ and then-Oakland Raiders’ taxi squads in 2015. He remained with the Raiders through 2016 and, after working out for the Cowboys in 2017, spent much of that season, and the following season, on the Carolina Panthers’ active roster.

His star fading, Gilbert took his talents to the AAF’s Orlando Apollos, drafted in November 2018. He started the Apollos’ first-ever game and won Offensive Player of the Week with a 393-yard, two-touchdown effort in Orlando’s second contest. Gilbert led the AAF in passing yards (2,152), attempts (259), completions (157), and passer rating (99.1), and ranked second in TD passes (13), when the league shuttered football operations in April 2019.

He joined the Cleveland Browns days after the AAF folded and made five appearances last year. Retained for 2020, Gilbert, sent to the COVID-19 list in August, was waived by Cleveland last September.

An Austin native, Gilbert, 27, played collegiately at Texas and SMU. He went 305-of-538 for 3,301 yards, 13 TDs and 23 interceptions for the Longhorns and 603-of-1,010 for 6,460 yards, 36 TDs, and 22 INTs for the Mustangs, stacking several single-game passing records.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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