The chess match is underway in Dallas

Yahoo Sports
What's next for these two gentlemen? (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
What's next for these two gentlemen? (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

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Morning, friends. Another week of glorious quarantine down, another week closer to … well, something different than this.

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The NFL released its 2020 schedule (don’t say it, don’t even think it) on Thursday night, and as expected, the Dallas Cowboys got five national dates, tied for most in the league, despite not even making the playoffs last year. As much as everyone wants to see how Kansas City defends its title, how the New England Patriots might fall on their face, and how the South New England Buccaneers deal with their newfound fame, in the end, all eyes are always on The Star.

This year will bring more reason than most to keep an eye on Dallas. Not only do they have some serious on-field playmakers, from Ezekiel Elliott to Amari Cooper to newcomer CeeDee Lamb, they’ve got one hell of a chess match going on behind the scenes.

Our Charles Robinson broke it down in detail yesterday, but here’s the gist: the Cowboys signed Andy Dalton, a career starter right up to the 2019 season, despite the fact that Dallas’s Quarterback of the Future, Dak Prescott, is Sitting Right There.

Oh, the Cowboys are saying all the right things: Dalton’s just here to provide backup, and God forbid, insurance in case of an injury. Dak’s the future, always has been always will be.

And if you believe that’s all there is to the story, friend, I’ve got a three-headed steer out on the back forty to sell you.

Dalton isn’t in Dallas as insurance. He’s there because the Cowboys need more chips on their side of the table. As CRob notes, Dallas had exactly zero leverage in dealing with Elliott’s contract negotiations last year, and Elliott’s team was able to wrangle one of the NFL’s last great running back contracts out of the Cowboys.

With no other starting-level QB under contract, the Cowboys were facing the prospect of another stomping at the bargaining table when Prescott and his crew made their pitch.

Now, though? Now Dallas isn’t a thirsty man in a desert. Now Dallas has a bit more leverage. Now the Cowboys can push that slip of paper with all the zeroes on it back across the table with a new figure.

Prescott ought to be the Cowboys’ quarterback for the next decade. He’s got the presence and the potential to take this team deep into January. But if he sets his price too high, or if he’s not willing to bargain to the Cowboys’ liking, well … Dallas just ensured that it’s not boxed in.

And all this presupposes that Prescott plays at the level of his ability this season. What if he struggles? What if he throws a crucial pick-six and loses to the Eagles or the Giants or — horror of horrors — the Redskins? All of a sudden the Cowboy faithful might just want to see what the Ginger Cannon still has in his arm.

Brilliance or catastrophe, Dallas will be must-watch, same as always.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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