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Cowboys draft 2023: What to make of the Cowboys reported interest in quarterbacks

Missouri v Tennessee
Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

The hype is just beginning for the 2023 NFL Draft, and there is already talk about the Cowboys and quarterbacks.

If last offseason was any warning, the Dallas Cowboys haven’t been shy about moving on from big name players for the sake of cap space, increasing reps for younger depth options, or to get ahead of injuries. Though the team still bowed out in the Divisional Playoffs and fell short of their championship goals, Dallas was mostly justified in their bold approach to replacing Amari Cooper, La’el Collins, and Randy Gregory. More recognizable names like Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliott have already been floated as potential cap casualties in the coming months, and what’s this about early rumors (or just mere mentions without much else) linking the Cowboys to quarterbacks C.J. Stroud, Hendon Hooker and Max Duggan?

Dak Prescott is under contract through 2026, and is not going anywhere for the 2023 season

This is the first and most important thing to remember when discussing any new quarterbacks joining the Cowboys in the draft. Behind Prescott on the depth chart though, the Cowboys only have pending free agent Cooper Rush and Will Grier entering the last year of his contract. There certainly is a need for another developmental QB on the roster, with the Cowboys learning the value of a capable backup this season when Rush won four of his five starts to keep the Cowboys in contention early.

Rush earned the backup job this past season partially on the merits of a 2021 road win at the Vikings, a game that not only meant a lot for his career but for head coach Mike McCarthy - doing something previous staffs couldn’t by winning with a backup quarterback. The pressure is turned up considerably on McCarthy now though, tying himself much more to the success of the offense in the penultimate year of his contract by replacing Kellen Moore as the Cowboys’ play-caller.

Jerry Jones has made it plain Dallas will draft a quarterback somewhere in the 2023 Draft.

For the time being, the Cowboys are committed to a McCarthy-Prescott duo finding more success in the playoffs. A short-term focus on surrounding Prescott with the talent it will take to put him on the same level as playoff mainstays Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, or even Jalen Hurts, may be the only way to do this, and if it was projected sixth- and seventh-round quarterbacks the Cowboys were interested in it would align with more of an all-in approach.

The names C.J. Stroud and Hendon Hooker potentially give off a different feel, even though it is still very early in the draft news cycle.

The Stroud “rumor”, if it can even be called that, is pretty easily dismissed. He is a projected top five to ten pick. The Cowboys would have to dump so many resources into moving up to draft him that the rest of the roster would suffer, and he wouldn't even play this year. McCarthy is not drafting a quarterback for the future, and in the process throwing away his present in building a championship roster. If he did that, he would be out of a job before Stroud would be ready to play post-Prescott. This one makes no sense.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker is a different story.

Leading a high-flying Volunteers offense that upset number one Alabama before tearing his ACL, Hooker’s draft value is a wild card as team’s judge the progress of his recovery. The Cowboys are no strangers to drafting players with an injury history, and part of Hooker’s evaluation will also come down to how his game translates to the pro level after playing in a wide-open spread system in the SEC.

If the Cowboys feel like their next best championship window is with another QB on a rookie contract, Hooker is the type of point guard quarterback that can spread the ball around, while also making up for any deficiencies up front with great scrambling and throw on the run ability.

The Cowboys would still be kicking more pressing 2023 roster needs down the road by using any top-100 pick on Hooker, but the opportunity to finally have a young backup QB with starter’s upside is intriguing - much more so than the idea of selling the farm for Stroud.

Throw in the Cowboys reported interest in local prospect Max Duggan out of TCU at the Senior Bowl, a showcase that annually features at least one future Dallas draft pick, and the team is making it known they want to improve at every possible position this offseason.

Improving at backup QB is a luxury team’s with a slightly more stacked roster than the Cowboys can prioritize, and before any more draft rumors hold merit, the free agency period will be telling into how much the Cowboys are buying into another run with Prescott or tooling for a possible future beyond both him and McCarthy.

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