Throughout the pre-draft process, the Dallas Cowboys teased the idea of selecting a developmental quarterback but the 2023 NFL draft passed without the franchise making a move at the position. Through the first round of undrafted free agent signings, the Cowboys have also opted to pass on the position.
According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, Dallas was considering former Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell in the fourth round before snagging pass rusher Viliami Fehoko at No. 129. O’Connell is one of the quarterbacks who had been most linked to Dallas leading up to the draft, but ultimately it was the Raiders who traded up to take the signal-caller just a few picks later at No. 135.
“I think they almost took Aidan O’Connell there in the fourth round,” Archer explained during a May 1, 2023 edition of 105.3 The Fan’s “Shan and RJ.” “I think he was up for discussion at No. 129 before they took [Viliami] Fehoko. And then once you get past that round, listen, they like the three guys that they have.”
The challenge is the Cowboys already have three quarterbacks on the roster: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush and Will Grier. Archer believes O’Connell or another day-three quarterback would have faced an uphill battle just to make the final roster. Dallas made it a priority to re-sign Cooper Rush this offseason despite the quarterback drawing interest from other teams.
“Obviously, they just signed Cooper Rush. They have Will Grier behind Dak,” Archer added. “We can always say, ‘Oh, do it like Green Bay did and draft a quarterback every year.’ But what were the odds of that guy making the team or being able to do enough to show you something in training camp to put him on the practice squad even?”
Former TCU star Max Duggan is another player the Cowboys openly praised, but the Dallas passed on him throughout the draft before the playmaking quarterback was selected by the Chargers in the seventh round. O’Connell threw for 3,490 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 64.1% of his passes for Purdue in 2022. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the Cowboys hosted O’Connell for a March 28 private workout.
“Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell has a private workout today with the Cowboys, per source,” Pelissero tweeted on March 28. “O’Connell also has private visits and workouts set up with the Jets, Raiders, Saints, Bengals, Colts and Bears, and has Zoomed with 10 other teams. Busy month for the Shrine Bowl standout.”
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy admitted the team “definitely” wanted to land a quarterback in the draft. McCarthy specifically praised Will Grier indicating it would have been a challenge for the fourth QB to make the final roster.
“Definitely [wanted to take a developmental quarterback]. There was definitely some guys that we really liked,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said during an April 29 press conference. “But I think the other thing too, as I recall, I think every one of these young men, all eight of them, were the highest-ranked player on the board. ….The trust of the board was right on the money all three days.
“But yeah, I really like the progress Will Grier has made. He’s been here the whole time. Obviously, Cooper gives us that veteran presence and everything, so it’s a very healthy room. Having a fourth quarterback is a little bit more of a challenge in today’s NFL than it was years ago. So all those things factor in.”