Here’s what happens if Cowboys QB Trey Lance is a bust this summer

When the Cowboys sent a fourth-round pick to San Francisco in exchange for quarterback Trey Lance, they were buying a lottery ticket. Since joining the NFL as a No. 3 overall pick in 2021 Lance has started just four games, passed for just 797 yards and maintained a sub-40 QBR throughout. He was a relatively low-cost acquisition for a reason.

The potential is there for him to hit big, but the chances are he’ll barely even see the field in 2024. Dak Prescott is primed for another great season as the starter and Cooper Rush isn’t going to give up the back-up spot without a fight.

The 2024 preseason is Lance’s best chance at showing he can make good on his vast potential. As an established veteran, Prescott is unlikely to play much, if at all, in the preseason. It will give Lance a prime opportunity to show he has NFL starter ability

It’s unlikely the initial addition of Lance had much of anything to do with Prescott’s contract situation. At the time of the trade, Lance had shown next to nothing to make anyone think he was a capable of one day replacing Prescott. If he did, the 49ers probably wouldn’t have traded him away. At the same time, he’s not completely out of the equation either.

Training camp is roughly two months out and the Cowboys have yet to strike a deal with Prescott. Prescott has no-trade and no-franchise tag stipulations in his contract giving him enormous leverage in negotiations. If Lance has a poor training camp and preseason, Prescott’s leverage only gets stronger.

As things stand today, Lance is a little bit like Skinner’s box. He could be good but he could also be bad. The mystery of Lance gives the Cowboys a touch of leverage in negotiations with Prescott. If Lance goes bust this summer, the Cowboys have something between “jack” and “squat.” Prescott’s side will know there are no viable replacement in-house options and can take the Cowboys front office to the woodshed in negotiations.

There’s also a little matter of Lance’s entire future to consider. It’s prove-it time for Lance. He’s had nearly a full year in Mike McCarthy’s program and will be given every opportunity to succeed in the preseason. There are no excuses in his fourth year.

Set to hit unrestricted free agency in 2025, Lance needs to show he’s not just another first-round bust but rather he has the makings of an NFL starter. Since the average starting QB makes more than any other position, the financial impact of how he plays in the preseason is enormous.

Playing well in the preseason may not guarantee a future in Dallas, but it does offer him a future in the league. It’s better for the Cowboys and it’s better for Lance if he has a great preseason.

The Cowboys aren’t banking on Lance hitting huge in preseason because they probably see him for the lottery ticket he is. As such, it won’t be a major disappointment if he struggles, nor would it have much of an impact in their future planning.

An offer for Cowboys fans

For the best local news, sports, entertainment and culture coverage, subscribe to the Austin American-Statesman.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire