The Cowboys’ trade for Trey Lance is opportunistic – and straight from the Eagles’ playbook

Perhaps the Cowboys’ front office decision makers are tired of all the praise for their competitors in the Northeast.

This is what it feels like on Friday night, in the immediate aftermath of their trade with Tre Lance. When the dust settles and we work out what it all means, the first conclusion is that it sounds exactly like something the Philadelphia Eagles would do.

We’ve seen it for years from Howie Rosman, the Philadelphia general manager who takes any opportunity to exploit market inefficiency and seize the opportunity to improve his team. That appears to be the game plan for the Cowboys, who would ship their fourth-round pick to San Francisco in exchange for Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft just two years ago.

It always raises eyebrows when a team with a franchise quarterback takes proactive action to acquire a new player, but let’s put Dak Prescott on the back burner for a second. Regardless of Prescott’s position, the trade makes sense.

Even with his career at a crossroads, Lance is a gamble worth taking – especially at this price. By giving up just one fourth-round draft pick in the deal, the Cowboys retain all of their top 100 picks in next year’s draft, and the $6.25 million guaranteed in the next two years from Lance’s deal would put him roughly 20th for the team. The most expensive player. These aren’t exactly the assets Dallas will lose if things don’t go well.

On the other hand, Lance is still only 23 years old as he enters his third season in the NFL. The size, athleticism and arm strength that drove the 49ers to move mountains to draft him is still there.

The elephant in the room is the staggering lack of experience. To this point, he’s attempted fewer than 200 passes in the NFL – and that includes preseason shots. Combine that with his short college career that saw him play just 19 games for North Dakota State, including just one appearance during the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, and San Francisco’s grit becomes an even more apparent focus.

None of this is Lance’s fault, watch out. The bottom line is that he is an unusually promising player, whose development has been derailed first by injury, then by the unexpected emergence of Brooke Purdy as an effective first baseman.

From here, there isn’t much of a downside. He came to the Cowboys organization with a strong culture, a veteran locker room and a couple of veteran quarterbacks he could learn from.

The considered guess here is that – for now at least – Lance will serve as a high-profile third striker. There’s no doubt he’s more talented than Cooper Rush, but he’ll be hard-pressed to quickly beat Rush’s seven years of experience in attack and organisation.

But it will be interesting to see if the Cowboys can think of any other ways to use their new acquisitions. Lance reaches a whopping 6-3,224 lbs and can run. In just eight games for the 49ers, The Rock ran 54 times for 235 yards. He also posted 1,100 receiving yards in his sophomore season of college.

We may be getting ahead of ourselves, but it’s easy to imagine Lance providing value as a ball-carrier both in the red zone and short distance – especially with an injury-prone midfielder in recent seasons.

With that, we can go back to Prescott.

Dak Prescott replicates Super Bowl cowboy hunger

Dak Prescott replicates Super Bowl cowboy hunger

The Cowboys signal caller is one of the most scrutinized players in football and this move will only serve to attract more attention. How does it not happen when an ex-Top 5 player is included in his position pool?

The truth is not like juice. When considering Prescott’s future, it is always important to remember that his contract gives him enormous leverage over his employer. Prescott is currently slated to tally an astronomical $60 million toward the 2024 salary cap — a figure that would severely hinder Dallas’ ability to keep a competitive roster together. He also negotiated a no-trade clause in the deal, leaving the Cowboys with few options other than signing him to an extension sometime within the next six months.

(williams: 49ers, Kyle Shanahan failed to give Tre Lance a real chance. Now they moved on)

Lance certainly gives them something in the way of leverage – a talented young quarterback who could take on the starting role. But now think of the long road ahead in Lance’s development and the short time until Prescott’s contract becomes an issue. As far as the youngster is concerned, it does not seem likely that he will develop into a real bargaining chip by March. At the very least, Lance’s presence on the roster prevents the Cowboys from needing to recruit a quarterback for the next two years. But that certainly doesn’t seem to threaten Prescott’s long-term outlook.

The title may not be very interesting, but the real story is very interesting. The Cowboys saw a unique opportunity to acquire rare talent in the most important position in the game – and at a low cost. If it works out, Trey Lance becomes an asset for six different reasons: a utility player, a back-up midfielder, a trade bait, an eventual compensatory option – and maybe even a starting player. If he fails, it’s a minor footnote, and it’s a decision no one should blame them for making.

It’s the kind of assertive strategy that’s helped their divisional rivals build two Super Bowl appearances in the past five years—and it would be smart to continue to do so.

David Hillman covers Dallas Cowboys For Fox Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a Regional Emmy Award for his role in the production of “Duck Prescott: family reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter at @davidhelman_.

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