How the Cowboys are adding depth, not leverage, with Andy Dalton

Why Cowboys' signing of Dalton has nothing to do with Dak (1:28)

Todd Archer provides analysis on the Cowboys' signing of Andy Dalton. (1:28)

Here’s what the addition of Andy Dalton to the Dallas Cowboys is not: a sign of unhappiness with negotiations with quarterback Dak Prescott and a way to leverage a long-term deal.

The addition of the former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback is about making the roster better.

By adding Dalton, the Cowboys might have the best backup quarterback in the NFL.

At 32, he has thrown 204 touchdown passes. He has 31,954 passing yards. He has been to the playoffs. He has won big games.

If something were to happen to Prescott, who has yet to miss a game in his career, the Cowboys have a known commodity in Dalton, who wanted to come to the Cowboys in part because of the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic. He lives in Dallas, so it makes sense even if he had a better opportunity elsewhere.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Dalton’s deal is worth $3 million and could grow to $7 million.

Cooper Rush, who has served as Prescott’s backup the past three seasons and thrown three passes, is set to make $2.1 million.

This is how the Cowboys used to treat the backup spot when Tony Romo was the starting quarterback.

In 2007-08, they had Brad Johnson as Romo’s No. 2, and he made $5.5 million. From 2009 to '11, it was Jon Kitna, and he made nearly $8 million. In 2012-13, it was Kyle Orton, and he made $7.25 million. Johnson was a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and took two different teams to the playoffs. Kitna and Orton led teams to the playoffs.

The Cowboys were willing to pay a premium on the position, strangely, until Romo started to get hurt more. They went with Brandon Weeden in 2014 and ’15 on a low-cost deal. He lost his four starts as Romo’s replacement, including three in 2015, which was a disastrous year for the franchise with Romo starting four games because of a twice-broken collarbone.

After Romo got hurt the first time the Cowboys traded a fifth-round pick for veteran Matt Cassel and a seventh-round selection. Cassel’s experience was viewed as a positive, but he went 1-6 and had five touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones did not forget that he paid Cassel nearly $2 million, and he failed to throw for more than 200 yards in five of those starts.

The following year, the Cowboys were planning on going with an untested Kellen Moore (one career start) as Romo’s backup until he broke his ankle the first week of training camp. After Romo suffered a broken bone in his back later that summer, they handed the keys to the franchise to Prescott, a fourth-round rookie, although they did add Mark Sanchez on a one-year, $2 million deal to back up Prescott.

Prescott has been driving ever since. (By the way, Moore is entering his third season as a Cowboys coach and second as the offensive coordinator.)

Prescott has been extremely durable despite taking 56 sacks in 2018 and a willingness to run (21 rushing touchdowns since 2016).

His 64 straight starts are the third-longest active streak among quarterbacks, trailing only Philip Rivers (224) and Russell Wilson (128), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Thirteen quarterbacks started every game last season. Rivers, Wilson, Brett Favre and Eli Manning might be the exceptions to the rule when it comes to quarterbacks escaping injury. Maybe Prescott is more like them and won’t get hurt either.

Without Drew Brees last year, the New Orleans Saints won with Teddy Bridgewater. Matt Moore went 1-1 as Patrick Mahomes’ injury replacement in Kansas City.

The Cowboys would be extremely happy if Dalton never saw the field for any meaningful snaps in 2020.

But just in case, they prepared themselves for the possibility.