On Sunday, a Dallas Cowboys crew that was seemingly going via a nightmare season noticed its worst fears realized. Within the third quarter, Professional Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome ankle injury. When you had been watching the play, you are not going to overlook what you noticed for a very long time. When you did not see the play, think about your self fortunate. Accidents are a part of soccer, they usually do not discriminate in opposition to good or unhealthy folks or between stars and unusual gamers, nevertheless it was tough to not be overwhelmed as a crying Prescott was carted off the field.
The Cowboys put in backup Andy Dalton, who led a late drive to arrange a game-winning subject objective and a 37-34 win over the Giants. The two-Three Cowboys at the moment are in first place atop the putrid NFC East, however what occurs subsequent may go many various methods. Let’s reset the scene and set up every part you’ll want to know after Prescott’s heartbreaking harm:
Leap to a piece:
Could this be a career-threatening injury?
Should Prescott have taken Dallas’ offer?
Is Andy Dalton actually any good?
Can the Cowboys still win the NFC East?
Should the Cowboys try to get another QB?
What happens if they decide to move on?
With the sport tied at 23 within the third quarter, the Cowboys dialed up a designed quarterback draw. Prescott broke via one sort out try after which tried to stiff-arm Giants defensive again Logan Ryan. As Ryan dragged Prescott down, the quarterback’s ankle obtained caught beneath Ryan. We frequently see gamers undergo excessive ankle sprains when their ankles get caught at that form of angle, however when Prescott got here out of the sort out, his ankle was dealing with the fallacious course.
There was nothing malicious or untoward in regards to the sort out or something anybody may have realistically finished to stop the harm. The Cowboys use Prescott as a runner on designed performs, however his workload is not exorbitant or unreasonable. He had been remarkably wholesome as a professional, because the 27-year-old had by no means been on the harm report earlier than he went down on Sunday.
Formally, the Cowboys introduced that Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his proper ankle, which implies the bone penetrated his pores and skin as a part of the harm. ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported that Prescott underwent surgical procedure on the ankle Sunday night. His season is probably going over, and the Cowboys will place him on injured reserve someday this week.
May this be a career-threatening harm?
By all accounts, Prescott ought to be capable to return. Though the harm was unquestionably grotesque, gamers throughout sports activities have returned from comparable accidents up to now and continued their careers. In baseball, Jason Kendall, Moises Alou and Robin Ventura returned from compound ankle fractures and sustained lengthy careers. In basketball, we not too long ago noticed Celtics ahead Gordon Hayward dislocate his ankle and fracture his tibia, miss a complete season and return the next yr.
Most significantly, we have seen soccer gamers overcome this harm, together with ball carriers. Veteran working again LeSean McCoy suffered a compound ankle fracture in highschool. On the professional degree, Connor Barwin and Allen Hurns had been capable of overcome dislocated ankles and return to the game. No two accidents are equivalent, after all, however there’s precedent for gamers making it again to play on the highest degree.
On condition that Alex Smith made his return to the sphere the day Prescott was injured, it is solely pure to attempt to examine Prescott’s harm to the Washington quarterback’s. They don’t seem to be the identical. Smith suffered a broken tibia and fibula after which handled a life-threatening an infection, which led doctors to perform a total of 17 surgeries. We cannot know till Prescott leaves the hospital and begins rehabilitating, however the hope is that he’ll keep away from any infections or different issues after surgical procedure.
Nobody can say for certain that Prescott would be the identical participant upon returning. Ankle accidents may cause critical issues for quarterbacks. Though his harm is nowhere close to as extreme, take Jimmy Garoppolo for example. When the 49ers quarterback suffered a excessive ankle sprain in Week 2, I discussed that quarterbacks who suffer high ankle sprains have a habit of sailing their throws when they come back, resulting in sailed passes and interceptions. Garoppolo made his return Sunday and was 7-of-17 passing for 77 yards with two sailed picks earlier than he was benched at halftime.
Prescott should reestablish his footwork as a passer. He won’t be as explosive or impactful as a runner, which has been an underrated and valuable part of his game the past five years. He may come again as the identical man, wanting just like the harm by no means occurred. He may additionally come again as a much less cellular and versatile participant, which might take a piece out of his recreation.
How does this influence his future with the Cowboys?
Within the quick time period, nothing modifications. Prescott is enjoying on the franchise tag, which ensures him $31.Four million for 2020. He’ll gather that cash even after being positioned on injured reserve. As was the case earlier than the harm, he isn’t below contract after Week 17, although Dallas has methods to maintain him round.
The franchise’s three selections on what to do with Prescott additionally have not modified. The Cowboys may let him depart and hit unrestricted free company. If that occurs, they’d not get direct compensation, although they’d probably gather a third-round compensatory decide within the 2022 draft in the event that they did not signal a equally costly participant in free company. They may additionally signal him to a contract extension, one thing they’ve tried and failed to do the past two offseasons.
The most definitely consequence each earlier than and after the harm is the third choice: a second franchise tag. The Cowboys can supply Prescott one other one-year deal, with this one guaranteeing the Mississippi State product $37.7 million for the 2021 season. The transfer would quantity to a $6.Three million increase, however with the cap set to drop from $198.2 million in 2020 to $175 million because of the hit in native revenues, the crew would really feel the pinch of a second tag much more. Prescott presently takes up 14.4% of Dallas’ cap house, however he can be in line to take up one thing nearer to 18.9% subsequent yr. With a $175 million cap, $37.7 million is the equal of paying Prescott one thing near $42.7 million on this yr’s cap.
On the identical time, a second tag would make sense for either side. The Cowboys won’t need to decide to Prescott in the long run till they see that their starter has returned to full well being, which they will not be capable to see on a soccer subject earlier than the franchise tag deadline in March. Franchising Prescott is the one approach the Cowboys may retain his rights earlier than free company, and that might give them 5 months to barter an extension upfront of the July deadline for handing franchised gamers long-term contracts.
Likewise, for Prescott, a franchise tag appears preferable. He has repeatedly declined contract extensions from the Cowboys within the hope of going year-to-year and getting the precise form of deal he needs, whether or not or not it’s from the Cowboys or one other group. This summer time, though the 2 sides had been reportedly shut on the typical wage of a brand new deal, talks fell aside over disagreements about size.
Dallas, which usually likes handy out the longest contracts in soccer to retain management of its gamers whereas leaving cap flexibility, needed an extended deal. Prescott sought a three- or four-year deal, hoping to signal a short-term contract after which get again to free company after the league indicators its new tv offers over the following two years, at which level the cap is predicted to rise dramatically.
It is attainable that Prescott’s harm may change his outlook and encourage the veteran to take regardless of the crew is providing as a part of the longest attainable deal. On condition that he has frequently guess on himself and made greater than $31 million in base wage alone this yr, although, it would not be stunning if he continued alongside that path, even after the harm.
Ought to Prescott have taken Dallas’ long-term supply?
Within the aftermath of the harm, the worst folks on Twitter had been excited to speak about how Prescott was silly to say no the crew’s long-term presents earlier than he suffered his harm. By no means thoughts that we’ve not seen any of the contract supply specifics or how a lot cash he realistically would have been passing up as a part of a deal. Each participant has to take care of threat, and as typically as a participant passes on a long-term choice after which will get harm, we see gamers who take below-market worth offers earlier than staying wholesome and regretting their selections, as with Chris Harris Jr. and Adam Thielen.
Whereas we do not know what a Prescott deal would have held, the fact is that he was assured $31.Four million by the franchise tag. Until he’s unable to play in 2021, the Cowboys are more likely to franchise him once more and pay him $37.7 million for a complete of $69.1 million over two seasons, at which level Prescott would be capable to both gather a 3rd franchise tag for $54.Three million or hit unrestricted free company. He nearly positively would have had his 2022 base wage assured as a part of an extension, however I am undecided that he would have made that rather more cash by signing an extension than he would by going year-to-year.
If Prescott is not capable of play in 2021, he may also be protected. Throughout the quarterback’s negotiations in 2019, Schefter reported that Prescott had loss-of-value and disability insurance and endorsement deals worth more than $50 million. It is unclear whether or not he’s nonetheless carrying that form of insurance coverage, nevertheless it’s clear that he thought of what may occur if he obtained injured over the previous couple of years. On the very least, Prescott was conscious of this risk and the chance he was taking.
Andy Dalton is now the Cowboys’ starter. Is he good?
Dalton was stable on Sunday. Though a nasty change led to a fumble, a brief subject and a Giants landing, the longtime Bengals starter went 9-of-11 passing for 111 yards after taking on. With the sport tied at 34, Dalton accomplished three passes for 72 yards to arrange a game-winning subject objective from Greg Zuerlein. That was the one optimistic to remove from an terrible Sunday for the Cowboys.
There are two questions right here. One in all them is simple to reply: I do not assume Dalton has any hope of matching Prescott’s manufacturing on this offense, whether or not or not it’s what we noticed in 2019 or over the primary four-plus video games of 2020. Keep in mind: Prescott threw for extra yards than every other quarterback in soccer historical past via the primary 4 video games of 2020, and it wasn’t notably shut. Dalton will not soak up that form of quantity.
Can Dalton be adequate to win video games, although? That is inside the realm of risk, although he had a a lot better shot at main the Cowboys as constructed on paper heading into this season than he does with the present model of this crew. Dallas is lacking 5 starters on offense, together with Prescott. Three of them are alongside the offensive line: Heart Joe Looney is out for just a few weeks, however beginning tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are out for the season. On Sunday, the Cowboys began three offensive linemen with one mixed begin within the NFL earlier than 2020 in Tyler Biadasz, Terence Steele, and Brandon Knight.
Michael Gallup makes a spectacular sideline catch to get the Cowboys in subject objective vary and arrange Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning subject objective.
Dalton has a borderline-MVP season on his résumé from 2015 in Cincinnati, when he had prime weapons comparable to A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and Tyler Eifert and arguably the league’s greatest offensive line. The Cowboys can provide Dalton the weapons, however their cross safety is suspect. Over his final two seasons in Cincinnati, a decaying offensive line let Dalton down, and the TCU product wasn’t capable of compensate. The Bengals ranked 31st in cross block win fee between 2018 and ’19, and Dalton’s numbers nosedived within the course of. He ranked 28th in each passer ranking and QBR when pressured over that two-year span, and although the Cowboys nonetheless have one star lineman left in Zack Martin, their line in any other case could be worse than what Dalton labored behind in Cincinnati.
The Cowboys have been pass-friendly and have performed at one of many league’s quickest charges this season, partly due to circumstances: Groups must throw lots and play quick once they go down by two touchdowns within the first half each week. With Dalton within the lineup, even given the road points, I’d anticipate Dallas to decelerate and rely extra closely on Ezekiel Elliott. Slowing down additionally reduces the stress on the Dallas protection, which ranked 24th in DVOA via 4 weeks. Dalton nonetheless has one of many NFL’s most gifted extensive receiver teams, however he is not going to make use of his receivers as often.
Can the Cowboys nonetheless win the division?
Completely, although that is extra of a commentary on what has unaffectionately become known as the NFC Least than Dallas’ efficiency. The Cowboys had been the one NFC East crew to win Sunday, they usually jumped into first place at 2-3, placing them a half-game ahead of the 1-3-1 Eagles. Washington (1-4) has misplaced 4 straight and is down its prime two quarterbacks, whereas the Giants are 0-5 and making an attempt to cover behind the Jets on the again pages of the New York tabloids.
The Eagles have not misplaced their quarterback, however they’ve brutal harm points in their very own proper. When you listed their prime 11 gamers on offense on paper, simply 4 are wholesome and enjoying proper now: Carson Wentz, Miles Sanders, Jason Kelce and Zach Ertz, the latter of whom caught one cross for six yards on six targets on Sunday. Ertz had 70 yards within the Week Three tie with the Bengals and has 76 yards in his different 4 video games regardless of enjoying just about each snap. He is on the sphere, however the star tight finish would not seem like his traditional self.
Heading into Week 5, the Cowboys had been nonetheless favored to win the division, with the ESPN Football Power Index (FPI) giving Dallas a 62.1% likelihood of claiming the NFC East. These odds will rise with the Cowboys’ profitable and transferring into first place. The Caesars sportsbook nonetheless lists them with +1100 odds of profitable the NFC, effectively forward of the Eagles at +2200 and good for the sixth-highest odds within the convention.
No one within the Cowboys group would have needed to start out 2-Three and lose Prescott for the season, but when these two issues had been going to occur, these are mainly the very best surrounding circumstances during which the crew may discover itself.
Ought to the Cowboys exit and get one other quarterback?
The Cowboys will transfer ahead, for now, with Dalton and seventh-round decide Ben DiNucci below heart. Former backup Cooper Rush is a free agent after he was lower by the Giants in September, and if Dallas had been going to make a transfer so as to add replacement-level depth behind Dalton, Rush would appear like the primary choice for the Cowboys. Clayton Thorson, who was on the Dallas observe squad in 2019, is on the Giants’ observe squad and could possibly be claimed. The Cowboys would probably choose a kind of two to different observe squad choices comparable to Davis Webb, Trevor Siemian or Garrett Gilbert.
The Cowboys signed Dalton for the state of affairs during which Prescott obtained injured, so I do not assume they’d make a transfer for a extra vital quarterback instantly. If Dalton had been to get harm or battle, although, do not forget that Jerry Jones has been aggressive making in-season strikes up to now. The Cowboys despatched a fifth-round decide to the Payments for Matt Cassel and a seventh-round decide when Tony Romo was injured through the 2015 marketing campaign after which inserted Cassel into the lineup forward of Brandon Weeden. (Kellen Moore, now the crew’s offensive coordinator, completed the season because the Dallas starter.)
There are just a few quarterbacks who could possibly be in the marketplace, although a few of them aren’t nice matches for the Cowboys for one cause or one other. Attainable commerce candidates:
Dwayne Haskins could possibly be obtainable after Washington benched its 2019 first-round pick in favor of Kyle Allen. Haskins wasn’t on the stadium on Sunday, as he handled a abdomen virus, and his future with the crew appears murky. Haskins was reportedly a selection thrust upon the prior soccer regime by proprietor Daniel Snyder, and new coach Ron Rivera apparently had sufficient clout inside the constructing to bench him. The previous Ohio State star has two years and $4.2 million in assured cash left on his deal after this yr, however whereas the cash would not be a problem for the Cowboys, Washington in all probability would not deal Haskins inside the division.
Nick Mullens was benched by the 49ers for C.J. Beathard after a disastrous run in opposition to the Eagles final Sunday. The 49ers resisted commerce talks for Mullens final offseason, however the 25-year-old is a restricted free agent after this season and an unrestricted free agent the next marketing campaign. With Jimmy Garoppolo struggling and the 49ers probably eyeing a wild-card spot after falling to 2-3, they won’t be prepared to ship Mullens to a attainable rival, particularly provided that the 49ers play Dallas in Week 15.
Blake Bortles was signed by the Broncos and is on the lively roster as considered one of 4 Denver quarterbacks. If Drew Lock is ready to return from his shoulder harm and play the Patriots subsequent week, the Broncos would in all probability be prepared to maneuver on from Bortles or Jeff Driskel. Dalton is probably going higher than Bortles or Driskel, however the Cowboys may be capable to decide considered one of them up totally free in every week or two.
Tyrod Taylor misplaced his job to rookie Justin Herbert in Los Angeles after suffering a punctured lung at the hands of team doctors. Taylor is a protected pair of arms and has a $1 million base wage for 2019, however the Chargers may need him as a veteran backup behind Herbert, and we’re now three years faraway from Taylor’s most up-to-date efficient run as a quarterback in Buffalo. It is unclear whether or not he’s a viable professional starter exterior of offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s scheme.
Brian Hoyer is one other quarterback who misplaced his job after a short run because the starter, with the Patriots benching him halfway via the second half of his Week Four begin in opposition to the Chiefs. New England spent all offseason speaking up Jarrett Stidham and would probably proceed with the second-year quarterback if Cam Newton is unable to play. Hoyer would not price a lot, and he has been a reliable backup in years previous. He could be probably the most believable commerce addition for the Cowboys if Newton is ready to return subsequent week.
Essentially the most fascinating deal can be for Sam Darnold, who was the topic of some preliminary trade chatter this weekend. The Jets are 0-5 and on tempo to complete with the worst report in soccer, which might clear a path for them to take Clemson signal-caller Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 general decide within the 2021 NFL draft. Darnold, who missed Sunday’s loss due to a shoulder harm, has flashed moments of potential throughout his time with the Jets, solely to be let down by subpar decision-making and one of many league’s worst supporting casts.
The Darnold state of affairs looms massive for the Jets due to a change within the league’s fifth-year choice language. After this yr, they should resolve whether or not to select up Darnold’s choice for the 2022 season, which would come with a considerable increase. In years previous, the fifth-year choice was assured just for harm at signing, which allowed groups to maneuver on if a participant wasn’t spectacular in yr 4. Underneath the brand new CBA, the fifth-year choice is absolutely assured on the time a crew picks it up, which implies the Cowboys would then be on the hook for Darnold in 2022, when they won’t use Darnold as their starter.
If the Jets decline the choice, although, 2021 turns right into a lame-duck yr for the previous third general decide. If the Jets can get Lawrence, declining the choice can be the apparent transfer, and transferring on from Darnold would give the Jets a greater likelihood of grabbing Lawrence. Schefter reported that normal managers across the league did not see the Jets choosing up a first-round decide for Darnold by way of commerce, however a second-round decide could possibly be a extra practical haul.
The Cowboys would be capable to encompass Darnold with vital weapons. Buying and selling for Darnold would additionally put them in an enchanting state of affairs. If Darnold stepped in and performed effectively, the Cowboys may decide up his choice and transfer on from Prescott, commerce Darnold or decline Darnold’s choice and decide up a compensatory decide when he strikes elsewhere. If he struggles, effectively, the Cowboys can be out a second-round choice minus a attainable midround compensatory decide. I am undecided the Jets are prepared to deal Darnold, and I do not assume it is sensible for the Cowboys to go after him until Dalton is inferior to anticipated, however there is a slim band during which a Darnold commerce may make sense for Dallas.
What occurs if the Cowboys resolve to maneuver on?
There are just a few situations during which Prescott may develop into a free agent within the spring. If he is coping with issues from the harm, the Cowboys won’t be prepared to make use of a second franchise tag. If Dalton excels, the Cowboys may attempt to signal Dalton to a Teddy Bridgewater-sized deal and use the financial savings to shore up their protection. In the event that they commerce for somebody comparable to Darnold and he breaks out, they may attempt to go together with a less expensive choice on the place. None of those situations is particularly probably, however they’re price discussing as we wrap up.
If Prescott had been to develop into a free agent, so long as he’d be capable to show that the ankle is therapeutic, I do not assume he would have a lot hassle getting a major contact, albeit one thing wanting Deshaun Watson‘s extension with the Texans. It is not tough to think about Prescott signing a three-year, $105 million deal on the open market, giving him the prospect to hit free company once more as he turns 30.
Because it stands, there could possibly be as many as eight groups available in the market for a brand new quarterback, together with the 49ers, Bears, Broncos, Colts, Jaguars, Jets, Patriots and Washington. The Buccaneers, Saints and Steelers would be part of if their future Corridor of Famers retire this offseason. A few of these wants are going to be met by draft picks, and the Saints in all probability do not have the cap house to go after Prescott, however there can be a major marketplace for the previous fourth-round decide.
Of these groups, the Colts come to thoughts as the obvious suitors. They’re going to have the cap house and a transparent path to a beginning job, provided that Philip Rivers is on a one-year deal. They worth accuracy and are an analytically-inclined group, suggesting that they may see extra in Prescott than different groups. Normal supervisor Chris Ballard additionally locations vital significance on character, and Prescott is thought to be a pacesetter and a very good presence within the locker room.
The most definitely consequence, although, is that not a lot modifications in any respect. I nonetheless assume Prescott is earmarked for a second franchise tag, and it is an consequence either side will probably see as a good choice after a tough 2020 marketing campaign. Prescott and the Cowboys hoped for 2020 to be a coronation yr, with the fifth-year quarterback residing as much as lofty expectations and main the crew on a deep playoff run.
As an alternative, Prescott’s huge yr got here to an finish in the midst of October in entrance of a quarter-full AT&T Stadium. The season is not over for Dallas, however its goals of creating it to the Tremendous Bowl for the primary time since 1995 in all probability rode off on a cart Sunday night.