Cowboys clearly traded for Trey Lance with an eye toward Dak Prescott's future

Sometimes, a tinfoil hat is needed to discern the truth when it comes to the things NFL teams say and do. Sometimes, the truth is staring you right in the face.

As to the Cowboys' actual motivation in trading for quarterback Trey Lance, owner/G.M. Jerry Jones inadvertently peeled back the curtain by issuing too strong a denial.

"It didn’t cross my mind, period, about an impact here regarding Dak," Jones said.

How could it not cross his mind? If it didn't, he's incompetent. Dak Prescott has a market-level contract that has the Cowboys facing a $59 million cap charge in 2024. They need to extend the deal in a way that secures his future, reduces his cap number, and leaves more than enough money to pay linebacker Micah Parsons after the coming season.

The recent decision to cave during guard Zack Martin's holdout makes it even more important that the Cowboys avoid giving Dak a deal worth $54 million or $55 million (or more) per year in average new money. The more they commit to Dak, the less they'll have for Micah.

Between the two, it's arguably more important to keep Parsons. He's a generational talent, an upper-room Hall of Famer if he stays healthy. He's the best at the NFL's second most important position. At the NFL's most important position, Prescott has slipped a bit — likely due to the fact that other younger quarterbacks have eclipsed him.

Few would disagree that the following quarterbacks are currently better than Prescott: Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Aaron Rodgers. Dak is currently on the fringes of the top 10, jockeying for positioning with Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Tua Tagovailoa, and maybe even Derek Carr. This year, others could leapfrog them, from Geno Smith to Kenny Pickett to perhaps one or more of the rookies who will be starting as of Week 1.

From an analytics standpoint, the Cowboys need to ask whether they can find a quarterback of relatively comparable ability at a dramatically lower price. With Prescott in position to leverage a top-of-the-market deal in exchange for dropping his cap charge well below $59 million, the Cowboys desperately need an alternative.

Whether Trey Lance is the answer doesn't matter. For now, they need to be able to point to Lance with a straight face when suggesting that maybe they'll move on from Prescott if they can't work out a new deal. They need something that will get Prescott to regard seriously the possibility that he'll be continuing his career in a new city with a new team.

Again, Lance might never be the answer for the Cowboys. They didn't trade for him to be the answer. They traded for him to be the plausible answer, so that they can keep Dak at a more reasonable price — and so that they can afford to re-sign Micah Parsons.