Dallas Cowboys: Assessing a Sam Darnold Trade – Pro and Cons

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys may be inclined to take a look at former blue chip quarterback, Sam Darnold

With Dak Prescott out for the season, the Dallas Cowboys will naturally go to their second option at QB, Andy Dalton. The 10-year vet wasn’t signed for nothing after all. He was signed to save the season should the worst happen.

But just because that was the plan then, doesn’t mean it has to be the plan now. And since former top-3 overall pick, Sam Darnold, may be available on the trade market, it only seems natural to reassess the QB situation on the Dallas Cowboys

ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently explored Sam Darnold trade possibilities. With the Jets currently sitting at 0-5 and fathoms away from fielding a competitive football team, they could be inclined to buy a ticket in the Trevor Lawrence lottery (current undisputed top QB in the 2021 NFL Draft). Such would make Darnold expendable and a trade with the Dallas Cowboys possible.

Dallas Cowboys QB solution: Why not Dalton?

While Andy Dalton is certainly a viable option as quarterback, he’s limited as to what he can offer the franchise. Dak is widely considered a top-10 QB option in this league and capable of lifting a struggling team up. Dalton, on the other hand, resides somewhere in the 20-25 range in most analysts’ minds.

That falloff is digestible if the team is solid everywhere else and is only looking for a bus driver. Most will agree, the Cowboys are pretty dysfunctional across the board and can’t survive with only a bus driver if the rest of the team won’t elevate.

It’s true, Dalton hasn’t seen firepower like this since his 2015 season. But he also hasn’t seen an offensive line mess like this since 2018 and 2019 when he was running for his life as the 31st rated passer.

Keep in mind, Dalton wasn’t signed to lead this Dallas Cowboys franchise to and through the playoffs. He was signed to fill in and keep the ship afloat should Dak Prescott, a player who’s never missed a game to injury, misses a little time. The situation he finds himself in is quite different than any of us imagined when he was brought in last spring.

Dallas Cowboys QB Solution: Why Darnold?

Can Sam Darnold be better than Andy Dalton? We honesty have no clue. The former No. 3 overall pick of 2018 was recently considered by many respected draft experts to be an elite franchise talent. While we haven’t seen that talent manifest in his first 30-games as a pro, it’s widely accepted he’s been stuck on the most dysfunctional and talent-starved team in the NFL. It would be hard to see anyone play well given his circumstances (New York is 0-7 without Darnold).

Dalton may have the higher floor to his game, but Darnold clearly has the higher ceiling. It’s not inconceivable to think Darnold and his scrambling ability could thrive in this Dallas offense and play at a higher level than Andy Dalton ever could at this point in his career.

What would Darnold cost and what would he offer the Dallas Cowboys?

Adam Schefter asked a handful of NFL executives what it would cost to get Darnold from New York and they seemed to think he would probably only garner a second rounder and some change.

Darnold would be under contract for this season and the next, at a cost $8.3M and $9.7M, respectively. A fifth year option could be picked up this offseason (for the 2022 season) but doing so would effectively eliminate Dak Prescott from all future plans in Dallas (which seems highly unlikely).

The Dallas Cowboys firmly believe Dak Prescott is their best option at QB going forward, and it would pretty hard to believe they’d trade their future with Dak for a Hail Mary like Darnold. That’s why this has to be seen as a 1+ year experiment. Not a viable long-term solution.

If Darnold works out and play well this season in Dallas, the Dallas Cowboys not only get immediate rewards in the form of wins here in 2020, but also hold the rights to a valuable asset. Dak could be back as QB1 for Dallas in 2021 and Dallas could flip their revitalized asset for future compensation.

If Darnold doesn’t work out, Dallas can either sell him off for cheap, or roll with him as an expensive back-up and pray they can fit him and Dak under the same cap (which is doable but will prevent them from doing much of anything else given their spending habits).

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Final Thoughts

Given all of the Dallas Cowboys challenges and struggles, it seems unlikely Andy Dalton can guide this franchise to contention in 2020, so it makes sense high variance players like Sam Darnold are entering into the conversation. But do the Cowboys really want to invest more into this season for a flyer on someone who may be even worse?

Probably not. But Darnold’s value is low and his potential remains fairly high so it’s understandable there are those in Cowboys Nation who want to consider him.

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There aren’t many options out there for the Dallas Cowboys and chances are they’ll just stick with Dalton and live to fight another season. But if they want to take a shot and gamble a little bit on the future, Sam Darnold could be had for pennies on the dollar, and if things work out, flipped for something much greater.

  • Published on 10/13/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 10/13/2020 at 10:32 AM