Andy Dalton is an awkward Cowboys upgrade for Dak Prescott

Andy Dalton may have the future on his mind, but his presence does make the Cowboys’ present a little dicier.

After signing a modest one-year, $3 million deal with the Cowboys on Sunday amid several options, the former Bengals quarterback has voluntarily relegated himself to a backup role, a position that he does not feel is permanent.

“I believe I’m a starter in this league,” Dalton said on a conference call Wednesday. “And I feel like I could bring a lot to the table. I know I’m on a one-year deal. I understand the market’s going to be a little bit different next offseason.”

The Bengals released the 2011 second-round pick on April 30, one week after drafting Joe Burrow No. 1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Dalton has thrown for 31,594 yards, 204 touchdowns and 118 interceptions with a 62 completion percentage over nine seasons. He has appeared in four postseason games and says he hopes “this sets [him] up for [the] future.”

“I wanted to join a high-class organization team that’s ready to win and be with Mike McCarthy — his history with quarterbacks — it gives me a chance to come to a new place, a chance to learn, to help Dak out any way I can and just to be an asset for this team,” the 32-year-old Dalton told Adam Schefter on his podcast on Monday.

While it seems unlikely he would challenge Prescott for the starting role barring an injury, neither player is under contract past this year. The Cowboys applied the exclusive franchise tag on Prescott valued at $31.4 million this offseason, but long-term contract negotiations seem to have stalled, leaving the position up-in-the-air.

“Dak [Prescott is] the starter on this team,” Dalton said. “Dak has played really well, and I knew the situation that I was coming into. … I felt like I could come in here and help this team win, obviously help Dak out as much as I can.”

One viable explanation is that adding Dalton imparts leverage over Prescott in upcoming negotiations, which are likely to result in the most expensive contract in NFL history. Stephen Jones — son of owner Jerry Jones and the Cowboys’ executive vice president — denies that the two are connected, however.

“Obviously, it has no bearing on Dak,” Jones told 1053 The Fan on Wednesday. “Dak is the quarterback of our franchise now, and for many years to come. We’ve gotta get his contract—we’ve gotta get over that hurdle. But we’ll do it, it’ll ultimately get done.”

Prescott reportedly wants a shorter deal lasting a maximum of four years while the team hopes to lock down their signal-caller for five to seven years. The two parties have until July 15 to reach an agreement.

Though the Cowboys finished a disappointing 8-8, Prescott ended the 2019 season with a career-high 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns and seems poised for another strong year with the draft addition of Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and re-signing of Amari Cooper.

“This group of skill-position players is, I think, going to be pretty special,” Dalton said. “I feel like this could be a very explosive offense.”

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