Cowboys QB Predicted to Ink Multi-Million-Dollar Deal With AFC Team

Mike McCarthy, Cowboys

Getty Mike McCarthy, Cowboys

Two Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks — Dak Prescott (No. 1) and Andy Dalton (No. 35) — cracked Pro Football Focus’ ranking of the NFL’s top 100 free agents for 2021. However, only one is projected to remain in a Cowboys uniform.

Whereas the sports analytics giant believes Prescott will re-up with the Cowboys, landing a long-term extension that pays $39.5 million annually, Dalton is forecasted to score a two-year, $10 million deal (including $8 million guaranteed) from the Denver Broncos.

Dalton finished 24th in PFF grade among quarterbacks with at least 150 dropbacks in 2020, and that’s about where he stands in today’s landscape of NFL signal-callers. He is one of the league’s best backups and can start if needed, but he disappointed with three PFF game grades under 55.0 for the Cowboys this season. Over the course of his career, Dalton has been a mid-tier starter who can produce with an excellent supporting cast, and that general premise still applies to him, albeit in a backup role.

Contract Analysis: Dalton signed a one-year, $3 million deal to return to the Dallas area and serve as the backup to Dak Prescott, but he was thrust into a starting role in the middle of Week 5. To make matters more interesting, future Hall of Fame left tackle Tyron Smith and starting right tackle La’el Collins were not available for a single snap with Dalton. He did his best to keep the ship afloat and certainly proved he could make a great backup for a team going forward, but odds are his days of starting in the NFL are very much over.

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Dalton Wants to Start in 2021

Signed to an incentive-laden one-year deal last May, Dalton never expected to crack the Cowboys’ starting lineup this season, fully content holding a clipboard for Prescott. The former longtime Cincinnati Bengals starter instead made 10 appearances following Prescott’s season-ending Week 5 ankle injury, throwing for 1,926 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 187-of-286 (65.4%) passing, with a 90.7 cumulative QB rating.

Following a 377-yard, three-touchdown performance in Week 16, however, Dalton no-showed for a must-win finale with the NFC East division title on the line. In a season-ending 23-19 defeat to the New York Giants, the first-year Cowboy went 29-of-47 for 243 scoreless yards and a backbreaking interception, one that officially eliminated Dallas from playoff contention.

Dalton — whose tumultuous 2020 campaign was marred by a concussion and bout with the coronavirus — has more than 33,000 career passing yards, 74 wins and three Pro Bowl trips to his name across 10 NFL seasons. Despite his fall from relevancy, the 33-year-old is ready for an eleventh go around, preferably as a permanent QB1.

“I feel like I can play, and I feel like I can help a team win,” Dalton said on Jan. 3, via the Cowboys’ official website. “Hopefully, with the film that I put out this year, people see that and value me in that way. I obviously feel like I still got a lot of good football left, and we’ll see how it all plays out.”

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Denver an Ideal Landing Spot for Dalton

The Cowboys likely cannot afford to re-sign Dalton as they must first sort out Prescott’s contract status. It’s expected that he’ll draw the franchise tag for a second consecutive offseason, this time at a cost of $37.7 million, if a multi-year pact potentially worth $40 million annually again fails to formulate.

Dalton will hit the unrestricted free-agent market as one of, if not the top retread option available. He’ll join the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mitchell Trubisky and Tyrod Taylor, and makes sense for a needy suitor like the Broncos — saddled with a young, inconsistent starter in Drew Lock — to gamble on.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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