NFL News & Analysis

Cowboys News: How QB Trey Lance fits with the Dallas Cowboys

2MAPEJR San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) looks to pass during an NFL preseason game against the Houston Texans on Thursday, August 25, 2022, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

• The Dallas Cowboys traded a fourth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for quarterback Trey Lance.

• Lance's unique path: After dealing with a pandemic-shortened final college season, injuries and bad timing, Lance hasn't had the proper time to develop thus far in his NFL career.

• Risk worth taking: This trade is low-risk, high-reward for the Cowboys, as Lance could potentially be the ideal backup to Dak Prescott and a valuable future trade asset.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The Dallas Cowboys shocked the NFL world Friday — well, unless you're following me on X — when they traded a fourth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for quarterback Trey Lance.

At first glance, this trade appears to be a win for all parties involved. The 49ers got a pick for their third-string quarterback. The Cowboys acquired a high-ceiling developmental talent they can develop behind Dak Prescott. Lance gets the fresh start he so desperately needs. 

Lance's journey to this point has been extremely unique, as his battles with injuries, poor timing and just plain bad luck have meant that he's attempted just 608 passes since high school.

Nonetheless, it is important to remember that Lance is still just 23 years old — for reference, the 33rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Will Levis, is 24 years old — so he has plenty of time to develop. And he's likely still early on his developmental curve, given his lack of overall experience. 

On the “Love of the Star” podcast, former Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus revealed that the team had a second-round grade on Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft. And while that's not close to the third overall pick (not to mention all the resources used to trade up to that spot) the 49ers used to pick Lance, it does signal that the Cowboys were infatuated with the North Dakota State quarterback.

Lance has the ability to become the ideal backup for Cowboys star quarterback Dak Prescott. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Lance brings a dual-threat skill set with prototypical size and special arm talent. It's easy to forget, but at 19 years old, Lance was one of the most dynamic players in college football, throwing 28 touchdowns to zero interceptions while rushing for 1,182 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to a 92.0 overall grade that trailed only Joe Burrow and Justin Fields among FBS and FCS quarterbacks.

His ability to create big plays in and out of the offense's structure is a big reason why so many thought he was a first-round prospect. That kind of talent doesn't just disappear overnight. The fact is that injuries and bad luck have limited his practice and game time since he arrived in the NFL, so even the brief glimpses we've seen of Lance on the field can't be deemed as an accurate depiction of his ability to be an NFL QB. 

For the Cowboys, this trade is low-risk with a potential sky-high reward. If Lance fails, then it only cost them a mid-round pick. However, if Lance does develop and start to display the talent that made him such a coveted prospect, the Cowboys not only have the perfect backup to Prescott, but they also have an extremely valuable trade chip that can be used to recoup their fourth-round pick and potentially much more.

Moreover, while Cooper Rush has proven to be a solid backup quarterback, he has limited upside and appears to have already reached the height of his abilities. Lance has a much higher ceiling, and his potential is essentially untapped, given his lack of experience. Will Grier, the team's current developmental quarterback, isn't even in the same zip code as Lance from a talent perspective. 

It wouldn't be surprising if the Cowboys front office signed off on this deal because it could potentially give them some leverage in future contract negotiations with Prescott, who previously had all the leverage. If a healthy Lance does start to develop quickly under Dallas' tutelage, the Cowboys could frame him as a ready-made replacement for Prescott if contract negotiations went awry. Now, while many (including me) would deem that unwise, given Prescott's standing as (at least) a top-12 NFL QB, it's impossible to evaluate this trade and not think that doesn't play at least a small role. 

Ultimately, the Cowboys are in a perfect situation to take this risk, and they are the perfect team to give Lance a real chance to remake his career without any pressure.


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