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Thursday, May 8, 2014
Filtering the Johnny Manziel possibility

By Todd Archer


IRVING, Texas -- Well isn’t all this Johnny Manziel stuff just so much fun?

ESPN Insider Todd McShay has Manziel coming Insider to the Dallas Cowboys with the 16th pick in the first round. So does Mike Mayock in his mock draft.

What kind of reaction would that have? Talk about a ratings bonanza. Talk about a ton of interest in a team that already has a ton of interest despite one playoff win in nearly two decades. Talk about an interesting quarterback room with Manziel and Tony Romo. Talk about how this would do nothing for a head coach needing to win in 2014 to make sure he’s coaching the team in 2015.

I’ll take you back to Jerry Jones’ comments after the Cowboys' 37-36 loss to the Green Bay Packers last December: Aren't you entertained?

If that's the reasoning people are using to connect Johnny Football to the Cowboys, then this franchise is doomed. If it's because Manziel is a future franchise quarterback, then fine.

In Tuesday’s pre-draft news conference Jones said, “I will go as far as to say it is not our primary goal in the first round to be looking at a quarterback. We've got a good one."

I guess we can parse the "primary goal" part. I guess we can just believe Jones was smokescreening us all. But why can’t we believe all this Manziel stuff now is just smokescreening? If Manziel does fall to No. 16, don't you think the Cowboys would love to drive up the price for a team that would be willing to trade up to that spot to get him?

Heck yeah.

On some levels it makes sense to draft Manziel, if the Cowboys are convinced he is a franchise quarterback. Romo is 34 and coming off his second back surgery. If you're going to find a replacement for Romo, then doing it in the early rounds makes the most sense. Since 2006, there have been 59 quarterbacks drafted in Rounds 3-7 and two have become starting quarterbacks: Russell Wilson and Nick Foles.

But let's look at the salary cap as a reason for why selecting Manziel wouldn't make sense.

If the Cowboys wanted to cut Romo after this season, it would cost them $9.635 million in cap space with his cap figure ballooning to $37.4 million. Romo is already guaranteed $7.5 million of his 2015 base salary. Another $7.5 million is guaranteed the third day of the 2015 league year.

With how fiscally responsible the Cowboys were this offseason when it came to free agency, would they wipe out a huge chunk of cap space? If they used a June 1, 2015 cut on Romo, then it would save $17 million against the cap, but then Romo would be on the books in 2016 for $21.635 million. Again not prudent.

If the Cowboys want to cut Romo after the 2015 season, then they would take a hit of $1.5 million, provided they let him play that season with a preposterously high $27.773 million cap figure. It is a virtual lock the Cowboys will restructure Romo's contract again in 2015, which would increase the proration amounts in 2016-19. Again not prudent.

So the most financially beneficial way to part ways with Romo is after the 2016 season. By that time Manziel would be going into the final year of his contract and the Cowboys would have to make a decision on whether to pick up his fifth-year option without having seen him play if Romo operates at a high level and does not get injured again.

Bottom line, I just don't see Manziel to the Cowboys happening. It would be great for a lot of people, including the media. It would make Valley Ranch -- or whatever we're going to call their new home in Frisco -- an even more interesting place.

Thankfully, the draft starts here soon.

It can't get here fast enough.