“There’s a lot to be decided this offseason. This is my first time being a free agent when the new league year starts, so I’ll go through the process of everything and weigh all of my options and see what I got,” he said after Sunday’s regular-season finale, per the team’s official website.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in Dallas. Just a good chance to play back at home where I’ve had a lot of family and friends that are able to come to games. I’m very thankful for the opportunity that I had this year, with the ability to play and just put some tape out there. So I’ll see how everything goes, and when that time comes and a decision has to be made, I’m going to do what’s best for me and my family.”
Signed to an incentive-laden one-year deal back in May, the former Bengals Pro Bowler never expected to crack the starting lineup this season, fully content holding a clipboard for Dak Prescott. He instead made 10 appearances following Prescott’s Week 5 ankle injury, throwing for 1,926 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 187-of-286 (65.4%) passing, with a 90.7 cumulative QB rating.
Following a 377-yard, three-TD Week 16 performance, Dalton saved his worst (in a Cowboys uniform) for last. The offense no-showed Sunday against the New York Giants amid a must-win finale with the NFC East on the line. Dalton went 29-of-47 for 243 scoreless yards and a backbreaking INT, doing too little, too late in a 23-19 defeat that officially eliminated Dallas from playoff contention.
Such a day capped Dalton’s dramatic year in which he suffered a frightful concussion and battled the coronavirus. He rallied the Cowboys to three consecutive wins prior to Week 17, but it wasn’t enough to extend his time in silver and blue.
Now, greener pastures await — in more ways than one.
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Dalton didn’t light the NFL world aflame this season, but he certainly made himself some money as an unrestricted free agent. There will be several QB-needy teams on the prowl this March and Dalton represents the best of the available veteran bridge options.
“I feel like I can play, and I feel like I can help a team win,” he said. “Hopefully, with the film that I put out this year, people see that and value me in that way. I obviously feel like I still got a lot of good football left, and we’ll see how it all plays out.”
The Cowboys likely cannot afford to re-sign Dalton as they must first sort out Prescott’s long-term contract status. It’s expected that he’ll land the franchise tag for a second consecutive offseason, at a cost of $37.7 million, if a multi-year pact potentially worth $40 million annually again fails to formulate.
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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL