Why the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t pass on Trey Lance

Aug 28, 2023, 8:41 AM

Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up during pregame warm ups prior to playing the Denv...

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up during pregame warm ups prior to playing the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on August 19, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Trey Lance gives the Dallas Cowboys the developmental quarterback they’ve sought for years, and owner/general manager Jerry Jones didn’t feel the need for Dak Prescott’s approval to make the move.

The Cowboys acquired Lance for a fourth-round draft pick in a trade with San Francisco on Friday, a day before the preseason finale against the Las Vegas Raiders. Lance wasn’t expected to join the club before the Raiders game.

“He gives us an opportunity to do what we would always like to be doing,” Jones said. “It would be ideal with Dak to have a young, prospective, developing quarterback that could just be in the room.”

The 49ers fielded offers for Lance after announcing that the 2021 No. 3 overall pick had lost the competition with Sam Darnold to be Brock Purdy’s backup. Jones said the Cowboys pounced.

“We felt good about him with the evaluation we had for him at the draft,” Jones said. “We felt good about what we’ve seen, tape that he’s had since he’s been in the NFL. And it’s one that we made the decision almost the minute we heard the name. Let’s get him.”

Jones said he didn’t seek Prescott’s input before the Cowboys made the move, and still hadn’t talked to his star QB more than 24 hours after the deal was announced.

“We very seldom ever talk to anybody, another player, about who we’re thinking about drafting or who we’re thinking about getting involved with,” Jones said. “We don’t do that.”

Prescott said he wasn’t surprised by the trade, or by not being informed beforehand.

“I understand that they’re probably on a timeline,” said Prescott, the starter since the opener of his rookie season in 2016 after Tony Romo was injured.

“They need to get something done. As I said, he felt like that strengthened this team. As I said, ready to welcome him.”

Lance’s arrival doesn’t figure to change the backup role with Cooper Rush, who went 4-1 as a replacement early last season after Prescott broke his right thumb in the season opener.

It could mean the end of Will Grier’s time with the Cowboys. The third-stringer for two seasons, Grier was in line for that role again. He started against the Raiders knowing his future with the club was in doubt.

The Cowboys believe Lance better matches the dual-threat skills brought by Prescott, who has been more conservative with his running since the gruesome broken ankle that ended his 2020 season in Week 5.

Lance played 19 games at FCS-level North Dakota State, with only one full season as the starter, before the Niners moved up in the 2021 draft by giving up their first-round picks each of the next two years.

The 23-year-old played just eight games with four starts in San Francisco, with his chance to be the starter ending in Week 2 last season because of a broken ankle.

“We could make this decision based on what we saw in the draft, based on feeling good about his injuries and based upon, frankly, he’s been in a positive situation there in San Francisco,” Jones said. “We think that’s been good exposure for him.”

The Cowboys haven’t drafted a quarterback higher than the fourth round in 22 years (Prescott was a fourth-rounder in 2016). Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the club has thought about drafting QBs more in three-plus years with coach Mike McCarthy.

“The problem is, we put third- and fourth-round grades on guys and they’re all gone by halfway through the second round,” Stephen Jones said. “This was a great opportunity, we think, value-wise, to get a guy who has a bright future. At the end of the day, we’re really trusting exactly what we thought of him coming out.”

Prescott is in the third year of a $160 million, four-year contract, while Lance has two years remaining on his rookie contract. The Cowboys hold the fifth-year option, but the cost makes it unlikely the club would use it, particularly with Jerry Jones saying, “I don’t want to plan on, count on or wish for help from him this year.”

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