Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Five Wonders: Cowboys' draft approach
By Todd Archer
IRVING, Texas -- What, you thought Five Wonders was going away in the offseason?
Nope. There will be no long-term hibernation even if the Cowboys’ season ended without a playoff appearance for the fourth straight season. There might be some mini-vacations.
Just not this week.
On to the Wonders:
** I wonder how the Cowboys will look at this draft. It is easy to say take the best player available. It is another to actually do it. Need has to be factored in. The Cowboys need to improve the defense, especially the defensive line. But you could make arguments they need to look at wide receivers, running back, offensive line and quarterback, too. Dez Bryant is entering the final year of his deal. Miles Austin is likely to be released. Terrance Williams had a productive rookie season but they still need to cover themselves at receiver. DeMarco Murray is entering the final year of his contract. Lance Dunbar is coming off knee surgery. Joseph Randle was only OK. The line play was the best the Cowboys have had in years, but Doug Free is going into the last year of his deal. And we know Tony Romo turns 34 in April and is coming off back surgery. So before you pencil in two or three defensive linemen, a linebacker, safety and cornerback into the Cowboys’ eight picks, remember to think about the future, too.
** Last week, I mentioned the Cowboys simply can’t dismiss talk about drafting a quarterback so easily with Romo coming off back surgery and Kyle Orton set to count $4.377 million against the cap if they did not want to restructure the backup’s deal. I wonder if the Cowboys should look again at quarterback John Skelton. He was among the five they brought in before the season finale against the Eagles before Jon Kitna offered up his services via text message. Skelton turns 26 in March. He has started 17 games. He has been with the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers. Signing Skelton to a “futures” contract would give him and the coaches a jumpstart on the offseason. He has the physical skills to play or at least be a competent backup and he would come at a cheaper price. If we take Jerry Jones at his word about not drafting a quarterback early, then this would be a way to possibly develop a quarterback with an upside at a no-cost price.
** Let’s play pretend here for a second, which isn’t always hard to do in this Wonderland. Let’s say the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl. As a perk of their title, the Seahawks will open the season on a Thursday night. The Cowboys play at Seattle in 2014. Despite their playoff drought and their everlasting time in .500-land, the Cowboys remain the NFL’s biggest draw. Maybe it would make more sense for the Seahawks to play the San Francisco 49ers, which is becoming one of the better rivalries in the league. Maybe it would make more sense to have a lesser foe to open up the season since everybody will be football-starved by next September, but the Baltimore Ravens opened up against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. But I wonder about this because of the Cowboys’ schedule later in the year. They will play Nov. 9 at London’s Wembley Stadium against the Jacksonville Jaguars. To balance out the travel, the Cowboys have to play Seattle early in the season. Why not put them at the earliest spot possible?
** I wonder if the Cowboys will bring back strongside linebacker Justin Durant in 2014. Durant did not play badly in his one season with the Cowboys, but a strongside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme is hardly a must-have position. Durant missed six games because of injuries and played only 197 snaps. He has some position flexibility, which is a positive. He did a decent job in his limited work as Sean Lee’s replacement at middle linebacker. But cost is everything. In an offseason in which pennies will count, Durant’s $1.45 million cap figure could hurt his cause. If the Cowboys let him go, then they save $1.25 million. That’s a nice savings when you consider what Kyle Wilber was able to do down the stretch or if they want to play DeVonte Holloman on the strong side.
**I wonder if the Cowboys will make their coaching staff announcements by the end of the week. Last year, running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan were fired before the divisional round of the playoffs. The Cowboys’ assistants are on vacation this week, just like last year when Ryan got the news in Turks & Caicos and let people know he was “comfortably numb.” This year the futures of Ryan’s successor, Monte Kiffin, and the few coaches who are without contracts are up in the air. You can throw in some uncertainty around offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, too.