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Monday, April 30, 2012
5 Wonders: Mo returns, Carter's future

By Todd Archer

IRVING, Texas – The award-winning 5 Wonders is back for a post-draft look. Today we talk about Morris Claiborne, Bruce Carter, Mike Jenkins and the missing nose tackle?

** The Cowboys traded up for Claiborne because he was the second player on their draft board and they could not believe he slipped out of the top five. In 2003 the Cowboys drafted Terence Newman with the fifth overall pick and said part of the decision was based on Newman’s return abilities. In nine seasons, Newman had 38 punt returns for a 7.5-yard average and one touchdown. They never really let him do it. I wonder if the Cowboys will let Claiborne return punts and/or kicks. He averaged 25 yards per kick return last year at LSU and had a 99-yard touchdown. He’s not Patrick Peterson as a returner, but he could be a good one and the Cowboys’ return games need to improve in 2012. Here’s a bonus wonder: I wonder if Dez Bryant actually becomes more of a full-time returner this season. It’s Year 3 for him and I wonder if the team will sign him to a second contract down the road.

** Claiborne’s arrival has Jenkins’ future in question. Jenkins is in the last year of his contract and is scheduled to make a little more than $1 million. He is also coming off shoulder surgery and as I wrote on Friday, the team is a little concerned at how much rehab time he’s spending in Florida and not at Valley Ranch. But I wonder what you could get for Jenkins. The money is palatable but he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013. And he’s coming off major surgery and won’t be ready until training camp. Jerry Jones likes to say a player’s value is lowest at the draft, so they could not get equal value for Jenkins or close to it. I wonder if the Cowboys let Jenkins play out the year, hope he does well, signs a big contract elsewhere and then hope they can get a compensatory back in 2014. The team doesn’t wonder about this (they say) but I wonder if they would like a do-over on Orlando Scandrick’s contract.

** I have to take Jones’ word for it that Bobby Wagner would’ve been the Cowboys’ pick in the second round had the team not made the move up for Claiborne. But I wonder what that means about Carter, last year’s second rounder. At every opportunity the Cowboys have said they liked how Carter progressed last season off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, that he met every goal they planned knowing that he was injured. Well, now he’s healthy and I wonder if he’s really a fit. The Cowboys added Dan Connor in free agency to a two-year deal and Jones said they would’ve taken Wagner, an inside linebacker. That would seem to be a little redundant, unless Rob Ryan is drawing up some sort of special scheme or maybe Wagner could play outside. There will be a lot of eyes on Carter during the organized team activities and minicamp.

** Where’s the true 3-4 nose tackle? As good as Jay Ratliff has been, many of you want the Cowboys to grab a huge nose tackle and slide Ratliff to defensive end. That’s why some fans wanted Dontari Poe in the first round or even Alameda Ta’Amu in the third round. I wonder if the need for that type of plugger is as important nowadays. Think about it. The NFL is a passing league and if you have a 330-pound nose tackle to stop the run, he will play about 30 percent of the snaps. Is it worth it? I don’t know, but it looks like the Cowboys don’t believe so. The good nose tackles in 3-4 defenses now also have some pass rush and flexibility, like Vince Wilfork or Haloti Ngata. Those guys aren’t available all the time and run defense was not the Cowboys’ downfall last year. I also wonder this: The Cowboys might be higher on Josh Brent than many people know.

** I wonder how many undrafted players make this roster. You can almost lock up Ronald Leary, the Memphis guard, after how Jones talked about him Saturday. Heck, you wonder if Leary could be a candidate to start. Last year four undrafted players made the 53-man roster and a fifth, Raymond Radway, would have if not for an injury.