OXNARD, Calif. - The Dallas Cowboys insist they have no unusual reason to have trepidation about the 2021 health of QB Dak Prescott - even after he trotted off the training camp field on Wednesday with a shoulder ailment that will sideline him for a time.
Amid gossip that he might need “a few weeks” of rest - Dak himself said “Everything’s fine” and is envisioning more like a couple of days off - one thing has not changed.
They simply have the normal reasons to be worried - and they do not presently employ a backup QB who can calm those worries.
Is COO Stephen Jones coming around on this fact?
“I’ve been on the record saying that player acquisition is 365,'' Jones said recently on 105.3 The Fan. "We looked at some quarterbacks in the spring. I think (offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and head coach Mike McCarthy) know what they want in a quarterback.
"They really like the guys we have here.''
And that ... is a mistake.
Stephen added: "At the same time, if they found a guy that they liked as well or better that would bring something different to the table, then we’d certainly look at it.''
A source tells CowboysSI.com that the Cowboys could re-evaluate the situation after teams make cuts. And of course, the preseason-game performance of Dallas' trio of backups will come into play as well.
But, right now, the Chicago Bears do employ such a "better backup.'' Two of them, in fact. One of them is Andy Dalton; let's assume he's still in a "QB1'' mindset even after the Bears' drafting of Justin Fields.
Where does that leave the other one, Nick Foles?
On the trading block.
Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers graciously allowing Green Bay to employ him means Blake Bortles, 29, is on the street.
Bortles and Foles are infinitely more qualified to sub for Dak than the struggling trio of have-not QBs in this camp.
‘Questionable’ Cowboys: Season-High Injury List vs. Patriots
The Cowboys release their final pregame injury/practice report. On it: A season-high six players listed as “questionable.”
LISTEN: Cowboys vs. Patriots - Is New England as Bad as Record?
On Sunday the Cowboys face a 2-3 Patriots team that’s led by Mac Jones and Bill Belichick. Are they really that bad?
Cowboys GAME DAY: Can Dallas Finally Beat Belichick?
The Dallas Cowboys look to keep their four-game winning streak alive.
Bortles has spent the last seven years in the NFL after being drafted by the Jaguars with the third-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Bortles has had awful moments. But he’s been a playoff QB and his pedigree is obvious.
Meanwhile, an NFL source tells CowboysSI.com that the Bears are shopping Foles, despite the fact that Chicago just before the April NFL Draft gave up a fourth-round pick to get him. And of course, he was available to Chicago via Jacksonville despite the fact that just two years ago, the Jags gave the QB what was billed as a four-year, $88 million deal.
Foles didn't work out in Jacksonville or in Chicago. And like Bortles, his record is hardly spotless.
But Foles, 32, is like Bortles in another way: He has a track record that present Dallas backups Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush and Ben DiNucci cannot begin to compete with.
He's appeared in 58 NFL games and compiled a 26-22 record has been a Pro Bowler, has owned a league-leading 119.2 passer rating. And of course with the Eagles in 2017, Foles stepped in for Carson Wentz and helped lead Philadelphia to the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history, and winning himself an MVP.
Logically, if the Cowboys lose Prescott for a short amount of time, Foles and Bortles qualify as bus drivers who could replace him and win games.
Gilbert, Rush and DiNucci? They couldn’t even get through Wednesday’s practice without recording almost as many picks as they throw completions.
And the contractual cost? Foles has two years left on his deal, with salaries of $4 million each year, plus a $4 million roster bonus in 2022. His entire 2021 salary is guaranteed. But Year 2 offers an escape hatch, as only $1 million it’s guarantee
Chicago surely wants no part of that. So many the trade bar is virtually nothing, leaving the questions: is Foles worth $4 million to the 2021 Cowboys? Or, is Bortles worth $1 million (as that's all his salary was in Green Bay)?
Stephen makes the pro-Gilbert argument thusly: "I think Garrett is going to do a good job for us. He did a great job last year. He gave us every opportunity to win the Pittsburgh game. I think as he gets more work, he’ll do a great job. The other young guys, Cooper (Rush) and (Ben) DiNucci will come along as well.
“But obviously, we’ll always have our eyes open. If there’s a way to get better, we’ll do it.”
I speak "Jonesese.'' I know what Stephen is saying. He's saying "no'' to adding a guy. He's saying "yes'' to Garrett Gilbert. But forget Dak for a moment. The backup QB is "the 12th starter.'' And there is almost no way, if Foles or Bortles were in this camp, that they'd get beaten out by Garrett Gilbert, let alone Rush or The Nooch.
The Cowboys should think of it that way. And once they do, they should proceed logically. Because they shouldn't be nervous about when Dak plays; they should be nervous when the other guys do.