Does Andy Dalton actually have a chance to start in Dallas this season?

Andy Dalton is heading home.

However, the fate that awaits him is still up in the air.

After being released by the Cincinnati Bengals on April 30, Dalton – who was born and raised in Texas and a four-year starter at TCU – signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

The 9-year veteran was initially a star with the Bengals. He is one of 10 quarterbacks in NFL history to have thrown for over 3,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, and one of six quarterbacks all-time to throw at least 20 touchdowns in each of his first three years.

He’s the only quarterback in Cincinnati franchise history to lead the Bengals to five consecutive playoff berths, and one of five quarterbacks in NFL history to lead his team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons.

Dalton also owns the Bengals franchise record for passing yards in a season (4,293), passing touchdowns in a season (33) and career passing touchdowns (204).

Cincinnati Bengals Football GIF by NFL - Find & Share on GIPHY

Dalton joins Dak Prescott in the Cowboys’ quarterback room, while the Cowboys continue to work on signing Prescott to a long-term deal after franchise-tagging him on March 16.

Last season, the Cowboys (8-8) missed the playoffs, while Dak passed for 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns – both career highs – and 11 interceptions.

During his four years as a starter, Prescott is 40–24 in the regular season. The Cowboys have made the playoffs twice in his time as QB1, losing in the divisional round in both 2016 and 2018.

Prescott’s numbers look shockingly similar to Dalton’s during his first four years in the league.

So, considering Dalton’s experience and Dak’s contract situation, is it possible that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones actually signed Dalton to play this season?

Skip Bayless, for one, thinks that it’s highly possible Dalton could be starting under center in the fall for the Cowboys.

“[Andy Dalton] very well could be the starting quarterback of my Dallas Cowboys … It’s starting to feel like [Jerry Jones] is very happy to have a shot at Andy Dalton, and that his powers of persuasion convinced Andy Dalton that this thing has gone south with Dak Prescott to the point that he might rescind the franchise tag that he’s placed on Dak … Or it might be that Jerry just thinks that Dak is going to hold out and they’re convinced that he is going to miss real games. And that Andy Dalton will get a shot.”

Stephen A. Smith thinks the chances of Dalton starting for the Cowboys are split down the middle and that it all depends on how things shake out with Prescott.

“I think it’s 50/50 if Dak hasn’t signed the exclusive franchise tag … Who’s to say that Jerry Jones won’t play that kind of game with Dak Prescott knowing that he has at least an experienced quarterback to join all the pieces that he added to this team until Dak is willing to capitulate to him to some capacity.”

Max Kellerman, however, is in the opposite camp. He believes under no circumstance would Dalton replace Dak, unless Prescott was physically unable to play.

“I believe a deal is going to get done, meaning that Dak will be the day one starter. Can Andy Dalton take his job? No, I don’t think so. The gap between Andy Dalton and Dak is not as great as some people may think, but Dak is better than Andy Dalton. Dak is the Cowboy’s quarterback – he’ll be starting Week 1 barring some unforeseen event.”

Shannon Sharpe agrees with Kellerman, saying that Dalton is a fit in Dallas considering he’s from that area and Dallas is loaded offensively, but that he doesn’t see Dalton playing much.

“He is from Texas and he played at TCU. I think it does give him an opportunity … You can understand that if something were to happen to Dak, [Andy Dalton] gets an oppotuniay to go in. He just might even flourish considering what he was in Cincinnati early in his career.”

On Monday, Cowboys reporter Jane Slater joined Colin Cowherd on The Herd to discuss the situation, and quash any rumors that Dalton will be anything more than a backup in Dallas.

“There are going to be to conspiracies theorists. It’s going to trigger a lot of people wondering if Mike McCarthy is all the sudden out on Dak. Is the Jones family frustrated with Todd France and him playing hardball with the contract? I have talked to a number of people on this both close to Andy and close to the Cowboys, I am being told that it is nothing more than insurance policy.”

Regardless of his spot on the depth chart, Dalton is eager to get to work and said as much on The Adam Schefter Podcast.

“This is just the next step for me. I wanted to join a high-class organization, a team that’s ready to win. And to be with Mike McCarthy, his history with quarterbacks, I think it gives me a chance to come to a new place, a chance to learn, to help Dak [Prescott] out in any way I can, and then just to be an asset for this team.”

Dalton might be speaking too soon. If Dak decides to hold out, there’s a very real chance that Dalton will become more than just an asset.

He could be the asset.