Trey Lance is close to 'being a master' of Cowboys offense, says coach Mike McCarthy

Will Lance be part of the Cowboys' future?

Trey Lance received some notable praise from Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy during the team's OTAs on Thursday.

The fourth-year quarterback is competing with Cooper Rush for the backup position after not seeing any action last season. And if the former first-round pick (No. 3 overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2021 NFL Draft) is impressive enough, maybe — just maybe — he gives the Cowboys an option as they continue to negotiate with starter Dak Prescott on a new contract.

McCarthy didn't provide any indication toward what would be a major, controversial decision. But he spoke highly of Lance's performance during the offseason and his improvement after a season of learning the Dallas offense.

"He was on a learning curve, but now he is starting to get the timing," McCarthy told reporters on Thursday. "He's close to being a master of the system. He has a really high understanding. … He just needs as many reps as he can."

Saying Lance is "close to being a master of the system" is high praise from the head coach, implying that he would be confident if Lance had to take over for Prescott at some point this coming season.

Yet the Cowboys also know what they have with Rush. The sixth-year pro threw for only 144 yards while appearing in seven games. However, he played very well in 2022 while filling in for the injured Prescott. In five games, Rush threw for 1,051 yards and five touchdowns (versus three interceptions), leading Dallas to a 4–1 record.

All three of the Cowboys' quarterbacks can be free agents after the 2024-25 season. Keeping Rush, who turns 31 in November, as Prescott's backup appears to be the conventional route. But team owner Jerry Jones might still be enamored with Lance's talent and the fact that he's only 24 years old.

Lance might also prefer to explore options where he could compete for a starting job. He won the 49ers' starting job in 2022 before his season ended with a broken ankle. Other general managers will likely be as intrigued by Lance's potential as Jones and the 49ers' braintrust were.

However, the Cowboys' quarterback situation ultimately comes down to whether Prescott is signed to a new contract. (His current deal prevents the team from placing a franchise tag on him.) Dallas would take a $40.5 million dead cap hit in 2025-26 if he leaves as a free agent. Working out a new deal would allow the team to spread that money out, helping to re-sign other stars like receiver CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons.