FRISCO, Texas -- Next week at this time the Dallas Cowboys will be getting ready for the start of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. The focus for many will be the hundreds of draft-eligible players who will work out and interview for all of the teams, but there will be plenty of other business going down, especially when it comes to the Cowboys’ impending free agents.
There is so much to wonder about, but we’ll stick with just Five Wonders.
Away we go:
The Cowboys won’t be a heavy player in the quarterback market when it comes to the draft, but I wonder if they are happy that it appears there could be four quarterbacks gone by the time they pick at No. 19 overall in the first round: Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen. The last time four quarterbacks went in the top 19 picks was in 2011. The Cowboys are casting their lot with Dak Prescott, so a first-round quarterback would be a surprise, but with four quarterbacks gone by the time they pick, that would push players at positions of need -- defensive tackle, linebacker, maybe wide receiver -- down the board to them.
The Cowboys’ top two goals of the offseason are to get deals done with DeMarcus Lawrence and Zack Martin. They can use the franchise tag on Lawrence to secure him for at least 2018, and they already have the fifth-year option on Martin. I wonder how intense the talks will be at the combine with linebacker Anthony Hitchens. The Cowboys might not be able to compete with the type of deal Hitchens gets when the market opens. He brings a lot of value -- and skill -- to the Cowboys, especially considering the injury histories of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. Hitchens could be this year’s version of Barry Church, whom the Cowboys wanted to keep last year but were unwilling to come up with a deal on par with the one he got from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If you were wondering if the impending position change of Byron Jones will impact the cost of the fifth-year option the Cowboys have to place on him, it won’t. The Cowboys are looking at moving Jones from safety back to cornerback, but that will not affect the cost. According to the fifth-year option rules, the contract is based on the highest percentage of snaps a player has at a position in his third year. Jones was a safety in 2017, so he will be looking at an option of $6.297 million for 2019. The Cowboys have until May 2 to pick up the option. Since the fifth-year option was introduced, the Cowboys skipped on picking it up on only one first-round pick, Morris Claiborne, whose injury history played a big part in that decision. When a team picks up the option it is guaranteed only for injury and can be rescinded at any time.
I wonder if the Pittsburgh Steelers have opened up an avenue for the Cowboys to do a multiyear deal with fullback Keith Smith, who is set to be a restricted free agent. The Steelers signed Roosevelt Nix, who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent, to a four-year, $6.975 million deal last week. The Cowboys have made similar moves in the past with guys like Chris Jones and Jeff Heath. Smith has made a smooth conversion from linebacker to fullback the past two years and is also a core special-teams player. By doing a multiyear deal with Smith now, the Cowboys can have him at a lower cap number than a qualifying offer in 2018 while having him at a good number going forward.
I wonder how many people at the combine offer kind words and condolences to Jason Garrett on the passing of his father, Jim. Jim Garrett was a longtime, respected scout for the Cowboys and has had three sons serve as coaches (head or assistant) in the NFL. Anybody who met Jim Garrett liked him. With every coach and scout in Indianapolis next week, there will be plenty of Jim Garrett stories told.