IRVING, Texas – After spending five days in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine, I’m wondering about a lot of things, so here's another offseason version of Five Wonders:
Here we go:
• I don’t wonder about the Cowboys signing Anthony Spencer to a long-term deal before the free-agent market opens. I do wonder if the Cowboys can really place the franchise tag on him for the second straight year. Owner and GM Jerry Jones said the Cowboys have a “reasonable way” in which they can keep Spencer in 2013. By reasonable, I don’t believe he’s talking about the $10.6 million price tag as much as he is simply just putting the tag on him. If the Cowboys want to tag Spencer, they would have to essentially come up with $30 million in salary cap room because they are over the projected cap by roughly $20 million. They can get there by restructuring a number of contracts, but it pushes out bigger money against the cap in future years. Dallas has to ask itself if he's worth it. The Cowboys are moving to the 4-3, and Spencer will play the right defensive end. I had one AFC personnel man tell me Spencer would go back to six sacks a year in that role in that scheme. Part of what made Spencer successful as a pass-rusher in 2012 was how much he moved around.
I wonder if people realize how well Tony Romo is thought of in the NFL. Yes, he will put the ball up for grabs too much for the liking of some, but one AFC offensive coordinator said he could see Romo as the highest-paid player in football if he were on the open market. Whenever Romo signs his extension -- be it before or after free agency begins -- I wonder if the Cowboys will make it a six-year deal. In other words, it would be a five-year extension through 2018. Part of the reason for the longer deal would be to help with the salary cap in the early years of the deal. When the Joe Flacco deal comes in, I would expect the Cowboys and Romo’s agents to get together in real negotiations. During the season, I said it would be a five-year extension for $85 million. Now I would put that figure around $90 million, or $18 million per season. Please remember, though, that a lot of this stuff is funny money.
• It’s funny how the combine works for players. Teams constantly say they put more stock in the tape than they do what a guy does in shorts or whatever Under Armour is putting them in nowadays, but then you hear about risers coming out of the week in Indianapolis. Blame the media, or at least the ex-coaches and personnel guys who have media jobs. But I wonder if the performances of two offensive linemen -- North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson -- take them out of play for the Cowboys at No. 18 overall. Cooper was powerful and could move. Johnson showed good strength and can run as well. The good news is that if these guys rise, other players will fall. I still can’t see Alabama’s Chance Warmack falling to No. 18, but some didn’t like what he showed at the combine. To them, I’ll steal a line from Randy Galloway: Watch the game.
• I wonder if Jason Garrett will remain as the playcaller. On Saturday, Jerry Jones said he would be fine if Garrett continued to call the plays in 2013 after he seemed to indicate at the Senior Bowl in January that he wanted a new playcaller. If I’m Garrett, and I understand it’s a must-win season after two straight 8-8 campaigns, then I’m riding my own hand and betting on myself. But that does not mean Bill Callahan wouldn’t be more involved. He will be. But here’s something to remember when Garrett talks about a “collective effort” in creating the game plan. Between series, these coaches are talking all the time about certain plays in certain down and distances, so it’s not as if Garrett is just pulling a play out of thin air.
• I’m really wondering if the Cowboys will not cut Doug Free before March 12 when they need to get under the cap. It’s been assumed all along he would be because of his $10.02 million cap number and the team’s need to create room. If the Cowboys were to cut Free now, he would likely be designated a June 1 cut, which means the team would not gain the $7 million benefit until then. That would be enough to pay for their draft picks and college free agents. Maybe it makes sense for the Cowboys to see what they get in free agency and the draft before letting go of Free. The talk of him moving to guard does not make much sense since he's not a power player.