Trey Lance has a fresh start and is landing in one of the NFL's most fascinating quarterback situations with Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.
In one of the most surprising moves of the NFL preseason, the Cowboys acquired Lance from the San Francisco 49ers, parting with a fourth-round pick in exchange for the former No. 3 overall choice in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Lance arrives in the Lone Star State freed from the pressure to quickly develop into a franchise quarterback — pressure that came after said franchise traded three first-round picks and a third-round pick to move up to select him.
"He needed a fresh start, for sure," an NFC North personnel director told FanBuzz on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about another team. "You could see that on film. You could hear it in all of the reporting from out there. You could just tell he needed to get out of San Francisco."
Lance now has the opportunity learn behind the scenes alongside established starting quarterback Dak Prescott. In addition, Cooper Rush is established in the role as reliable veteran backup on a roster ostensibly built to win now.
The Cowboys didn't acquire Lance in hopes that he makes their roster better in 2023.
Rather, it is obvious that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Mike McCarthy and Co. view Lance as an insurance policy on Prescott's ability to stay healthy — and potentially a trade that pays future dividends if Lance is able to develop as a trade chip in coming seasons.
But how does Lance fit the Cowboys' scheme? Should Prescott be looking over his shoulder after the first game he throws two interceptions and Dallas loses in last-second heartbreaking fashion? FanBuzz spoke to scouts and executives around the NFL to get a feel for what to reasonably expect from Lance in his new home.
"He looks and feels like Dak," an NFC scout told FanBuzz on the condition of anonymity to speak freely on another team. "Except, without the production."
Lance has only attempted 102 passes through his first eight NFL appearances, making four starts. So, in effect, Jones and the Cowboys purchased a lottery ticket.
"Trey needs a lot of fundamental work," an AFC East executive told FanBuzz. "He tends to 'drop' or sink his entire frame as he generates power from his lower half, which severely impacts his accuracy.
"He simply hasn't played much football. I'd guess for the Cowboys, they're looking at this as a reclamation project who gives them a candidate to take over for Dak if he doesn't get it done in the next two years."
The Cowboys obviously had at least one eye trained on Lance during the pre-draft process in 2021, in order to be drawn to the opportunity to trade for him in the summer of 2023, which could set up a favorable marriage between player and team.
But, as one NFC executive pointed out, Lance's true value is the fact that he remains under team control though the 2025 campaign, including his fifth-year option. At his most costly, Lance could count somewhere in the area of $5.3 million on the fifth-year option, whereas Prescott averages $40 million per season over the life of his deal.
"We see it as an opportunity," Jones told reporters following the trade.
For the Cowboys, adding Lance is the ultimate no-risk-but-sky-high-reward gamble.
"He'll need to be a lot better than he was at seeing the field and throwing the football than he was in San Francisco," the NFC North executive said. "If he is ever going to have a chance at playing productive NFL football."
If Lance fails to develop, the cost sunk into him will be minimal. But in a league where teams have commanded a king's ransom for veteran quarterbacks in late-preseason trades, it's easy to see a future where the Cowboys could flip Lance in a deal that nets them far more than they gave up to acquire him in the first place.
Likewise, should Prescott falter this season and the Cowboys once again fail to advance beyond the NFC divisional playoffs, perhaps Lance's future becomes brighter in Dallas than it ever was in San Francisco.
"Dallas is taking a swing on Trey's talent," the AFC executive said. "Which he definitely has some. They're hoping he can develop behind the scenes, I'd guess."
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