Andy Dalton may never be the starting quarterback in Dallas, but to the extent that the Cowboys need a starting quarterback before the season starts, Dalton could be it.
Dalton’s arrival gives the Cowboys a QB1 during Dak’s decision not to participate in the virtual offseason program. Dalton also protects the Cowboys against what could be an even more aggressive move by Prescott.
For franchise-tagged players, one deadline matters most: July 15. After that, the player cannot be signed to a multi-year deal. So at that point, there would be no reason for Prescott to stay away, right?
Even though the Cowboys and Prescott couldn’t do a long-term deal after July 15, the two sides would be able to negotiate different terms on a one-year deal. He could ask for more than his $31.4 million franchise tender. Or he could seek a commitment that the Cowboys won’t tag him again in 2021.
Regardless, Prescott can stay away until just before the start of the regular season and earn the full amount of his franchise tender, like Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell did in 2017. If Prescott does, the Cowboys will need someone to run the offense during training camp and the preseason (if there is one). Dalton becomes that guy, giving the Cowboys protection in the event Prescott does indeed stay away until days before the regular season commences.
At that point, coach Mike McCarthy would have an interesting decision to make between the guy who is fully prepared and the guy who has just shown up. We’ll cross that bridge if/when it comes to that. For now, the Cowboys know that if it comes to that, the question will be Dalton or Prescott, not Cooper Rush or Prescott.