Commentary

Decision time looms for Cowboys

Organization must take stock of personnel to formulate plan for free agency and draft

Updated: March 2, 2012, 5:25 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

We're getting closer to draft time, and with that we've decided to go straight to the questions from this week's mailbag.

Here we go:

Q: Hi Calvin. After 16 years of no Super Bowl appearances and one playoff win, why should anyone get excited over the Cowboys this year? Have we not heard this song and dance before on how this season shows promise? -- James Brimm (Atlanta)

[+] EnlargeMario Williams
AP Photo/Dave EinselMario Williams would be a nice addition to pair with DeMarcus Ware, but his price tag will be too high for the Cowboys to entertain.

A: Yes, it seems almost every Cowboys season shows promise, especially after Bill Parcells took the team to the playoffs in 2006. It seems the closest the Cowboys came to pushing toward a deep playoff run was in 2007 when they finished the regular season 13-3, only to get knocked out of the postseason by the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Most NFL teams have promise, and the Cowboys have high hopes, based on what the owner says. Jerry Jones hinted in 2010 he would like to see his stadium host his team in the Super Bowl, but the Cowboys failed to reach the postseason. The Cowboys had a chance to reach the playoffs last season, only to lose a bid in the regular-season finale at the Giants. These are things you already know. The Cowboys will have high expectations from their owner in 2012. The reality is this team, as it's presently constructed, is no better than a nine- or 10-win team.

Q: Who do you see the Cowboys getting as a backup quarterback? -- Artemus (Macon, Ga.)

A: I guess you don't like Stephen McGee. I asked someone about Jason Campbell, who played for Oakland last season, and the feeling was their was no interest. Kyle Orton, whom the Cowboys tried to claim last season, is a possibility, but I wonder if he believes he's a starter. Orton is a free agent and the team could make a play for him. With Jon Kitna retiring, Jerry Jones wants a veteran quarterback to back up Tony Romo, to be inserted quickly should an injury occur. I doubt if Matt Flynn, Vince Young or David Garrard are on the Cowboys' radar. Derek Anderson, David Carr, Rex Grossman, Brady Quinn and Sage Rosenfels are possibilities.

Q: Hello, Calvin Watkins. To begin, I'm a huge fan of yours and the Dallas Cowboys. Quick question: Should the Dallas Cowboys go after Mario Williams, the defensive end from the Texans? It makes sense being that Anthony Spencer is a free agent. Someone like Williams could fit with the Cowboys and could play alongside Demarcus Ware. Could that be something great? We could be like the Giants this year with their front four. -- Javier Tapia (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.).

A: Javier, it's good to have fans, though sometimes I wonder if I have more people angry with me. I doubt the Cowboys will go after Williams. He's going to command a major salary, something like $10 million to $12 million per year on average, to remain in Houston. The Cowboys are not going to pay Williams that money to play opposite Ware. It's not going to happen.

Q: Do you see Dallas taking Dontari Poe, the defensive tackle, in first round after that stellar combine result? They could take him and move [Jay] Ratliff to defensive end and that, to me, would shore up the D-line all together. Two birds with one stone. -- Joshua Tovar (Lawton, Okla.)

A: Stephen Jones said he believes Ratliff will remain at nose tackle and the Cowboys want to keep it that way. I figured the Cowboys would move Ratliff to defensive end to try to minimize the double-teams he deals with on a consistent basis. Jason Hatcher had a fantastic season at one end spot and Marcus Spears also played well. I thought Kenyon Coleman played well at the start but tailed off down the stretch. It would seem Josh Brent and Sean Lissemore make solid third-down pass rushers. As far as fitting in Poe, I'm not sure if it will happen. The Cowboys need to fix the secondary and pass rush, and while I wouldn't mind getting Poe or another elite nose tackle, the cornerback and outside linebacker spots are bigger needs right now.

Q: Calvin, I believe the offensive line is two guards away from being good to great. The defense is probably five players away. Wouldn't it be wise to complete the offensive side of the puzzle by drafting David DeCastro from Stanford and going after another guard in free agency? We could then use the rest of the draft for the defense. Your thoughts? Thanks. -- James (Corpus Christi, Texas)

A: The Cowboys have some young guards -- Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski -- who should compete for a starting job next season. It is possible Kyle Kosier will return for his seventh season with the Cowboys. There was a thought the Cowboys might go after Carl Nicks from New Orleans, but he's going to command big money and he wants to remain with the Saints. The draft is the best place to go at guard. Getting younger along the offensive line is a benefit.

Q: Here's another question for you. Why not trade a late-round pick, probably one from next year, for Bart Scott, a leader we are looking for. I think he would rule the fans here, taking the crown as a favorite. -- Billy McCune (Weatherford, Texas)

A: Here's the deal with Scott: His playing time was reduced last season and he wasn't on the field on third downs because the defensive coaches thought he was a liability in pass coverage. The Cowboys dealt with that for two years with Bradie James and Keith Brooking. I don't believe they want to do that again. Scott is a leader, of course, but that Jets locker-room scene last season didn't feel like it had any leaders, especially after reading about the Mark Sanchez-Santonio Holmes issues.

Q: If the Cowboys were to land either Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan, should the Cowboys draft a guard or a pass rusher? -- Ruenell Crawford (La Place, La.)

A: I've been to Monroe, Shreveport, Ruston, Grambling and New Orleans in my day. Never been to La Place, La. Ruenell, I like Carr better than Finnegan only because he's younger and has more upside. Carr, it seems, would make more plays on the ball. Finnegan is a strong voice for the Titans and I would be surprised if he's not coming back in 2012. If the Cowboys get either one, a pass rusher is something they must get. Yes the interior of the offensive line had its issues, but I believe it can be solved in free agency or in the draft; maybe get a guard in the second round.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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