Dallas Cowboys: Seneca Wallace
Every Tuesday as always wonder about some things. Five Wonders is back and off we go:
- Jason Hatcher is having a career year and it could not have come at a better time. Hatcher will be a free agent after the season and already has more sacks this year than he has had in any season. And he could make the Pro Bowl, which is something he mentions frequently. But Hatcher will turn 32 next July. I'm on record saying the Cowboys can't pay age. But I wonder if the Cowboys would consider using the franchise tag on him. It would chew up $9-10 million in salary-cap room, but they would buy some time in finding defensive line help for beyond 2014. The Cowboys will have to make a number of moves to get under the cap, but they would be able to fit Hatcher in at the franchise number. Is it worth it? The Cowboys put the tag on Anthony Spencer last year, paying him $10.6 million. I thought it was the right move at the time and did not second guess it after Spencer's knee injury cost him all but one game this season. I'm not as sure about tagging Hatcher. They might have to restructure more deals than they would want and that would also affect the cap in 2015 and beyond. And last year the defensive line market was thin, even for the top players.
- Kyle Orton in the offseason. He will make $3.25 million in 2014 and count $4.377 against the salary cap. The Cowboys will have to do a lot of maneuvering to get under the cap in the offseason and could just restructure Orton's contract in the same way they did last March. The Cowboys have yet to start the clock on finding Tony Romo's replacement, which is another reason to keep Orton around. But the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers also offer up valid reasons to keep Orton even if he does not throw a pass this year. The Packers season has gone to shreds without Aaron Rodgers. They have not won since losing Rodgers, turning first to Seneca Wallace, who got hurt, then to Scott Tolzien and now they're on Matt Flynn. The Bears are 2-3 without Jay Cutler, though it is difficult to put much of the blame on Josh McCown. He's done a nice job and been a stabilizing force, but the Bears appeared to learn their lesson when they lost Cutler in previous seasons. Romo turns 34 in April. He's battled injuries in the past and had back surgery last April. Keeping Orton makes sense and something I think the Cowboys do. It's an insurance policy worth keeping. I wonder if the Cowboys will have a decision to make on backup quarterback
- I wonder if the Cowboys had Laurent Robinson in the back of their mind when they have signed some of these defensive linemen this season. Confused? Hear me out. In 2011, Robinson had a career year with 54 catches for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns, but because the Cowboys signed him to a minimum salary-benefit contract they were unable to re-sign him before he hit free agency. Jacksonville swooped in with a five-year, $32.5 million deal with $14 million guaranteed. It was way too rich for the Cowboys -- and ultimately the Jaguars -- but without the restriction Robinson would have re-signed with the Cowboys at a much cheaper rate. That brings me to the defensive linemen. When the Cowboys signed George Selvie, Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn, Drake Nevis and Martez Wilson, they made sure they got a second year on the contracts. They are all signed through 2014, so if they hit -- and Selvie is a hit -- the Cowboys hold their rights for a second year. That's a shrewd move, in my opinion.
- I wonder if DeMarco Murray can reach 1,000 yards. Yep, I do. Murray missed two games with a knee injury and essentially missed a third when he got just four carries for 31 yards against the Minnesota Vikings when the game plan called for Tony Romo to pass the ball early and often. But with four games to go Murray needs 303 yards to reach 1,000. In his last three games Murray has rushed for 89, 86 and 63 yards. If he keeps up that pace, he would get there. Reaching 1,000 yards should not be that difficult, but the Cowboys sure seem to make it difficult after years of Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith almost annually reaching the mark. The last Dallas runner to go for more than 1,000 yards was Julius Jones (1,084) in 2006 and that's the Cowboys only 1,000-yard rusher since 2001.
- I don't wonder if the Cowboys will rue the day they lost Alex Tanney, just as I don't think the Cowboys have rued the day since losing Matt Moore oh so many years ago. (Long-time readers will know how I feel about Moore). The Cleveland Browns signed Tanney off the Cowboys' practice squad last week. I liked what Tanney did in a short time with the Cowboys over the summer. He showed some things in his preseason work, but there will be a new Tanney next summer. Or even next week. I wonder if the Cowboys add a quarterback to the practice squad over the final month of the season. They could use the last four weeks to bring a guy in for a free look and essentially give him a “signing bonus” for four weeks of being on the practice squad and sign him to a futures deal when the season ends.
The Cowboys signed Orton to a three-year, $10.5 million deal with a $5 million signing bonus in 2012. He has not thrown a pass this year and the Cowboys hope he doesn’t have to.
Teams with high-priced starting quarterbacks, like Rodgers, find it difficult to commit much financially to the backup. They gamble. Indianapolis did it for years with Peyton Manning, and now the Broncos are going with a youngster behind Manning in Brock Osweiler. The Patriots are doing the same behind Tom Brady with Ryan Mallett.
Resources are precious in a salary-cap league. If you committed mega millions to the starter, it’s hard to commit millions to the backup. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talks about how the team values the quarterback position. He’s not just talking about the starter. He’s talking about the backup, too. That’s why the Cowboys have had Brad Johnson and Jon Kitna as backups under Garrett’s watch before Orton.
Orton played in one game last year, completing nine of 10 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Chicago Bears.
He has started 69 of the 72 games he has played in his career. He has 81 touchdown passes and 57 interceptions.
Would the Cowboys' offense be the same if they lost Tony Romo? Of course not, but they are better prepared to handle an injury to their starting quarterback than most teams.
IRVING, Texas – With sources saying Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could miss three weeks with a fractured left collarbone, the Dallas Cowboys stand to benefit. Sort of.
At 5-4, the Cowboys could see a potential wild-card partner in the Packers be greatly affected by missing their quarterback. In 2008, Tony Romo missed three games with a broken pinky. The Cowboys lost two of the three games with Brad Johnson at quarterback, including a 34-14 embarrassment to the St. Louis Rams, and missed the playoffs by a game.
The Packers are set to give Seneca Wallace the keys to the offense, which shows you why the Cowboys value the quarterback position and have Kyle Orton as their backup.
The smoothest road for the Cowboys to take for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 is to win the NFC East. They have a one-game lead on the Philadelphia Eagles and a 3-0 record in the division.
Thinking wild card should not enter into their equation. They would lose a tiebreaker to the Detroit Lions. The San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers have better records at this point. The Cowboys control their fate in the division.
If they get into a wild-card battle, then they almost have to sweep the Chicago Bears and Packers in December meetings.
Rodgers could be back for the Packers by Dec. 15. The last time he played at AT&T Stadium, he won Super Bowl XLV.
IRVING -- After failing to sack the opposing quarterback during the first two games, the Cowboys defense now has 14 -- including eight in the last two weeks.
The team was getting pressure during those first two games, but they couldn't get any takedowns.
"That's the way it goes," nose guard Jay Ratliff said. "We're doing the necessary things to create pressure and make it difficult for the quarterback to throw, but the sacks weren't showing up on paper. But now, I guess it's showing up a little bit."