FRISCO, Texas -- The draft is over. The rookie minicamp has come and gone. The OTAs start next week.
There is so much to wonder about the Dallas Cowboys. Five things, to be exact.
Away we go with Five Wonders:
** On June 2, Dallas will gain $14 million in salary-cap room when Tony Romo’s release becomes official. I wonder whether the Cowboys will use that space on the extension they would like to give to Zack Martin. In the Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick contracts, their extensions were effectively cap-neutral. In other words, their cap numbers really did not increase over what they were scheduled to count that year based on the structure of the new deal. With Dak Prescott on a rookie deal for at least two more seasons before he can sign a megadeal, perhaps the Cowboys would look to front-load Martin’s deal so that, when Prescott’s bigger contract comes on the books, they are not as pressed. Dallas typically structures these contracts with a low base salary in the first year and a larger base in Year 2 that it converts to create room. With Romo’s cap figures coming off the books, it might make more sense to structure Martin’s deal a little differently.
** I wonder whether the Cowboys will be stretching the minimums and maximums when it comes to certain positions when they put together their 53-man roster. Many things will change over the coming months, because of injuries and the unforeseen, but could Dallas go with six wide receivers, two quarterbacks, four running backs and 11 defensive backs? Let’s look at the receiver position, where Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are locks. The Cowboys used a fourth-round pick on Ryan Switzer and believe he will be their punt returner. He’s a virtual lock. They drafted Noah Brown, as well. Could he push Brice Butler? Could Dallas keep both? The Cowboys drafted four defensive backs -- Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods and Marquez White -- to pair with what they have in Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, Byron Jones, Jeff Heath, Anthony Brown, Kavon Frazier and Robert Blanton. Can they carry 11 defensive backs? Could they go lighter at linebacker or defensive line? It’s worth thinking about when creating a 53-man roster in May.
** For all of those who believe there is too much optimism in the expectations for Jaylon Smith, I wonder whether there needs to be a tapping of the brakes regarding tight end Rico Gathers, as well. Gathers is gaining steam as one of the biggest potential X factors this offseason. He spent last year on the practice squad, and those who watch and participate in practice say he had some terrific moments with the scout team. It should be noted the scout team runs cards. In other words, you’re just following a script. There’s a big difference between knowing what to do in live action and just running cards. Gathers will have a real chance to make the 53-man roster, but pegging him for big-time success seems a bit premature at the moment.
** Last year the Cowboys did not have an undrafted free agent make their 53-man roster. I wonder whether that will happen again this year. The Cowboys have had tremendous success with undrafted free agents over the years -- think Romo, Miles Austin, Barry Church, Beasley -- but with them drafting better and having a deeper team, the road to the 53-man roster is more difficult. As of today, I don’t see Dallas keeping a third quarterback, so Cooper Rush and Austin Appleby will have to light it up in the preseason. Perhaps running back Jahad Thomas could finagle his way into the mix, but at the expense of whom?
** Considering how the Cowboys ran their rookie minicamp (no offense vs. defense work), I wonder whether they will tone down their OTAs and mandatory minicamp with their veterans, as well. Old-timers will view that as soft, but teams are so afraid of injuries that they have altered how they train and how they practice. It might affect the product on the field come the regular season, but teams would rather lose a player in a real game than in the offseason. There will be competitive periods in the offseason program, but I wonder whether Jason Garrett will scale back some of the work.