Dak Prescott ankle damage: Answering the largest questions concerning the QB, the Cowboys, Andy Dalton and what’s subsequent

On Sunday, a Dallas Cowboys crew that had seemingly been going by means of a nightmare season noticed its worst fears realized. Within the third quarter, Professional Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome ankle injury. If you happen to had been watching the play, you are not going to neglect what you noticed for a very long time. If you happen to did not see the play, contemplate your self fortunate. Accidents are part of soccer, and so they do not discriminate towards good or dangerous folks or between stars and unusual gamers, however it was tough to not be overwhelmed as a crying Prescott was carted off of the field.

The Cowboys put in backup Andy Dalton, who led a late drive to arrange a game-winning area purpose and a 37-34 win over the Giants. The two-3 Cowboys at the moment are in first place atop the putrid NFC East, however what occurs subsequent can go many alternative methods. Let’s reset the scene and set up the whole lot it is advisable know after Prescott’s heartbreaking damage:

Bounce 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 they try to get another QB?
What happens if they decide to move on?

What occurred?

With the sport tied 23-23 within the third quarter, the Cowboys dialed up a designed quarterback draw. Prescott broke by means of one deal with try after which tried to stiff-arm Giants defensive again Logan Ryan. As Ryan dragged down Prescott, the quarterback’s ankle bought caught beneath Ryan. We regularly see gamers undergo excessive ankle sprains when their ankles are caught at that kind of angle, however when Prescott got here out of the deal with, his ankle was dealing with within the unsuitable course.

There was nothing malicious or untoward concerning the deal with or something anybody might have realistically accomplished to forestall the damage. 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 even been on the damage report earlier than happening on Sunday.

Formally, the Cowboys introduced that Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his proper ankle, which means that the bone penetrated by means of his pores and skin as a part of the damage. ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported that he underwent surgical procedure on the ankle Sunday night. His season is probably going over, and the Cowboys will place Prescott on injured reserve someday this week.

May this be a career-threatening damage?

By all accounts, Prescott ought to be capable to return. Whereas the damage was unquestionably ugly, gamers throughout sports activities have been in a position to return from related accidents prior to now and proceed their careers. In baseball, Jason Kendall, Moises Alou, and Robin Ventura had been in a position to return from compound ankle fractures and maintain lengthy careers. In basketball, we just lately noticed Celtics ahead Gordon Hayward dislocate his ankle and fracture his tibia, miss a whole season, after which return the next yr.

Most significantly, we have seen soccer gamers overcome this damage, together with ball carriers. Veteran working again LeSean McCoy suffered a compound ankle fracture in highschool. On the professional stage, Connor Barwin and Allen Hurns had been in a position to overcome dislocated ankles and return to the game. No two accidents are an identical, after all, however there’s precedent for gamers making it again to play on the highest stage.

On condition that Alex Smith made his return to the sphere on the identical day during which Prescott was injured, it is solely pure to attempt to examine Prescott’s damage 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 of course that he’ll be capable to keep away from any infections or different issues after surgical procedure.

Nobody can can say for certain that he would be the similar participant upon returning. Ankle accidents could cause severe issues for quarterbacks. Whereas his damage 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 on Sunday and was 7-of-17 passing for 77 yards with two sailed picks earlier than being benched at halftime.

Prescott must re-establish his footwork as a passer. He additionally won’t be as explosive or impactful as a runner, which has been an underrated and valuable part of his game over the last five years. He may come again as the identical man, wanting just like the damage has by no means occurred. He might additionally come again as a much less cellular and versatile participant, which might take a piece out of his sport.

How does this impression his future with the Cowboys?

Within the short-term, nothing modifications. Prescott is enjoying on the franchise tag, which ensures him $31.4 million for 2020. He’ll nonetheless accumulate that cash even after being positioned on injured reserve. As was the case earlier than the damage, he’s not below contract after Week 17, though Dallas has methods to maintain him round.

The franchise’s three decisions on what to do with Prescott additionally have not modified. The Cowboys can let him depart and hit unrestricted free company. If that occurred, they’d not get direct compensation, though they’d doubtless accumulate a third-round compensatory choose within the 2022 draft in the event that they did not signal a similarly-expensive participant in free company. They will additionally signal him to a contract extension, one thing they’ve tried and failed to do in each of the past two offseasons.

The almost certainly consequence each earlier than and after the damage 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 $6.3 million elevate, 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 at the moment 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 similar time, a second tag is smart for each side. The Cowboys won’t wish to decide to Prescott within the long-term till they see that their starter has returned to full well being, one thing which they will not be capable to see on a soccer area earlier than the franchise tag deadline comes up in March. Franchising him is the one means they’d be capable to retain his rights earlier than free company, and it will give them 5 months to barter an extension prematurely 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 hopes of going year-to-year and getting the precise kind of deal he needs, whether or not or not it’s from the Cowboys or one other group. This summer time, whereas the 2 sides had been reportedly shut on the typical wage of a brand new deal, the deal fell aside over disagreements about its size.

Dallas, which generally likes at hand out the longest contracts in soccer to retain management over its gamers whereas additionally leaving cap flexibility, needed an extended deal. Prescott sought a three- or four-year deal, hoping to signal a short-term contract whereas getting again to free company after the league indicators its new tv offers over the subsequent two years, at which level the cap is anticipated to rise dramatically.

It is potential that Prescott’s damage might change his outlook and encourage the veteran to take regardless of the crew is providing as a part of the longest potential 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 surprising if he continued alongside that path, even after the damage.

Ought to Prescott have taken Dallas’ long-term supply?

Within the aftermath of the damage, 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 struggling his damage. 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 cope with danger, and as typically as a participant passes up a long-term choice after which will get damage, we see gamers who take below-market worth offers earlier than staying wholesome and regretting their alternative, like Chris Harris Jr. and Adam Thielen.

Whereas we do not know what a Prescott deal would have held, the fact is that he was already assured $31.4 million by the franchise tag. Until he’s unable to play in 2021, the Cowboys are prone to franchise him once more and pay him $37.7 million for a complete of $69.1 million over two seasons, at which level he would be capable to both accumulate a 3rd franchise tag for $54.3 million or hit unrestricted free company. He nearly undoubtedly would have had his 2022 base wage assured as a part of an extension, however I am unsure he would have really made all that rather more cash by signing an extension than he would going year-to-year.

If Prescott is not in a position to play in 2021 for some purpose, he may additionally be protected. In the course of 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 kind of insurance coverage, however it’s clear that he is been excited about what may occur if he does get injured during the last couple of years. On the very least, he was conscious of this risk and the danger he was taking.

Andy Dalton is now the Cowboys’ starter. Is he good?

Dalton was strong on Sunday. Whereas a nasty change led to a fumble, a brief area 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 area purpose from Greg Zuerlein. It was the one optimistic to remove from an terrible Sunday for the Cowboys.

There are two questions right here. One among them is straightforward to reply: I do not suppose Dalton has any hope of matching as much as 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 any quarterback in soccer historical past by means of the primary 4 video games of 2020, and it wasn’t significantly shut. Dalton simply will not take in that type of quantity.

Can Dalton be adequate to win video games, although? That is inside the realm of risk, though he had a significantly 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 a couple of weeks, however beginning tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are out for the season. The Cowboys began three offensive linemen on Sunday with one mixed begin within the NFL earlier than 2020 in Tyler Biadasz, Terence Steele, and Brandon Knight.

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Michael Gallup makes a spectacular sideline catch to get the Cowboys in area purpose vary to arrange Greg Zuerlein to kick by means of the game-winning area purpose.

Dalton has a borderline-MVP season on his résumé from 2015 in Cincinnati, when he had prime weapons like A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and Tyler Eifert and arguably the league’s finest offensive line. The Cowboys may give Dalton the weapons, however their move safety is suspect. Over his final two seasons in Cincinnati, a decaying offensive line let down Dalton, and the TCU product wasn’t in a position to compensate. The Bengals ranked thirty first in move block win fee between 2018-19, and Dalton’s numbers nosedived within the course of. He ranked twenty eighth in each passer ranking and QBR when pressured over that two-year span, and whereas the Cowboys nonetheless have one star lineman left in Zack Martin, their line in any other case may be worse than what Dalton labored behind in Cincinnati.

The Cowboys have been pass-friendly and performed at one of many league’s quickest charges this season, partly due to circumstances: groups should throw loads 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 upon Ezekiel Elliott. Slowing down additionally reduces the strain on the Dallas protection, which ranked twenty fourth in DVOA by means of 4 weeks. Dalton nonetheless has one of many NFL’s most gifted huge receiver teams, however he is not going to make use of them as steadily.

Can the Cowboys nonetheless win the division?

Completely, though that is extra of a commentary on what’s unaffectionately become known as the NFC Least than Dallas’s efficiency. The Cowboys had been the one NFC East crew to win on Sunday and 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 damage points in their very own proper. If you happen to 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 move for six yards on six targets on Sunday. Ertz had 70 yards within the Week 3 tie towards the Bengals and has 76 yards throughout his different 4 video games regardless of enjoying nearly 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% probability of claiming the NFC East. These odds will rise with the Cowboys successful and shifting into first place. The Caesars sportsbook nonetheless lists them with +1100 odds of successful the NFC, effectively forward of the Eagles at +2200 and good for the sixth-highest odds within the convention.

No person within the Cowboys group would have needed to start out out 2-3 and lose Prescott for the season, but when these two issues had been going to occur, these are principally the absolute best surrounding circumstances during which the crew might discover itself.

Ought to the Cowboys exit and get one other quarterback?

The Cowboys will transfer ahead, for now, with Dalton and seventh-round choose Ben DiNucci below heart. Former backup Cooper Rush is a free agent after being lower by the Giants in September, and if Dallas was 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 follow squad in 2019, is on the Giants’ follow squad and may very well be claimed. The Cowboys would doubtless favor a type of two to different follow squad choices like Davis Webb, Trevor Siemian or Garrett Gilbert.

They signed Dalton for the state of affairs the place Prescott bought injured, so I do not suppose they’d make a transfer for a extra vital quarterback instantly. If Dalton had been to get damage or battle, although, keep in mind that Jerry Jones has been aggressive making in-season strikes prior to now. The Cowboys despatched a fifth-round choose to the Payments for Matt Cassel and a seventh-round choose 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, ultimately completed the yr because the Dallas starter.)

There are a couple of quarterbacks who may very well be in the marketplace, though a few of them aren’t nice matches for the Cowboys for one purpose or one other. Potential commerce candidates:

Dwayne Haskins may very well 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, though his future with the crew appears murky. Haskins was reportedly a alternative 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 nonetheless 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 towards 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 doubtless eyeing a wild-card spot after falling to 2-3, they won’t be keen to ship Mullens off to a potential rival, particularly on condition that the 49ers play Dallas in Week 15.

Blake Bortles was signed by the Broncos and is on the lively roster as certainly one of 4 Denver quarterbacks. If Drew Lock is ready to return from his shoulder damage and play the Patriots subsequent week, the Broncos would in all probability be prepared to maneuver on from both Bortles or Jeff Driskel. Dalton is probably going higher than both Bortles or Driskel, however the Cowboys may be capable to choose certainly one of them up without spending a dime in per 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 palms and solely 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 final 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 quick run because the starter, with the Patriots benching him halfway by means of the second half of his Week 4 begin towards the Chiefs. New England spent all offseason speaking up Jarrett Stidham and would doubtless proceed with the second-year quarterback if Cam Newton is unable to play. Hoyer would not value a lot, and he has been a reliable backup in years previous. He may be essentially 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 document in soccer, which might filter a path to take Clemson signal-caller Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 general choose within the 2021 NFL draft. Darnold, who missed Sunday’s loss with a shoulder damage, has flashed temporary 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 giant for the Jets due to a change within the league’s fifth-year choice language. After this yr, they must determine whether or not to choose up Darnold’s choice for the 2022 season, which would come with a considerable elevate. In years previous, the fifth-year choice was solely assured for damage at signing, which allowed groups to maneuver on if their participant wasn’t spectacular in yr 4. Beneath the brand new CBA, the fifth-year choice is absolutely assured on the time a crew picks it up, which means they’d then be on the hook for Darnold in 2022, when they won’t even 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 choose. If the Jets can get Lawrence, declining the choice can be the apparent transfer, and shifting on from Darnold would give the Jets a greater probability of grabbing Lawrence. Schefter reported that normal managers across the league did not see the Jets selecting up a first-round choose for Darnold through commerce, however a second-round choose may very well be a extra lifelike 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 might choose up his choice and transfer on from Prescott, commerce Darnold or decline his choice and choose up a compensatory choose when Darnold strikes elsewhere. If he struggles, effectively, the Cowboys can be out a second-round choice minus a potential mid-round compensatory choose. I am unsure the Jets are keen to deal Darnold, and I do not suppose it is smart for the Cowboys to go after him except Dalton is inferior to anticipated, however there is a slim band the place a Darnold commerce might make sense for Dallas.

What occurs if the Cowboys determine to maneuver on?

There are a couple of situations during which Prescott might change into a free agent within the spring. If he is coping with issues from the damage, the Cowboys won’t be keen 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 like 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 doubtless, however they’re price discussing as we wrap up.

If Prescott had been to change into a free agent, so long as he was in a position to show that the ankle was therapeutic, I do not suppose he would have a lot bother getting a major contact, albeit one thing wanting what Deshaun Watson‘s extension seems like 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 possibility to hit free company once more as he turns 30.

Because it stands, there may very well be as many as eight groups out there for a brand new quarterback, together with the 49ers, Bears, Broncos, Colts, Jaguars, Jets, Patriots and Washington. The Buccaneers, Saints and Steelers would take part 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 haven’t got the cap house to go after Prescott, however there can be a major marketplace for the previous fourth-round choose.

Of these groups, the Colts come to thoughts as the obvious suitor. They will have the cap house and a transparent path to a beginning job, on condition that Philip Rivers is on a one-year deal. They worth accuracy and are an analytically-inclined group, suggesting they could see extra in Prescott than different groups. Common supervisor Chris Ballard additionally locations a major significance on character, and Prescott is considered a pacesetter and a very good presence within the locker room.

The almost certainly consequence, although, is that not a lot modifications in any respect. I nonetheless suppose Prescott is earmarked for a second franchise tag, and it is an consequence each side will doubtless see as a good consequence after a tough 2020 marketing campaign. Prescott and the Cowboys hoped for 2020 to be a coronation yr, with the fifth-year quarterback dwelling as much as lofty expectations and main them on a deep playoff run.

As an alternative, Prescott’s massive 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 constructing it to the Tremendous Bowl for the primary time since 1995 in all probability rode off on a cart Sunday night.

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