IRVING, Texas -- It's Week 19 of the Dallas Cowboys' season and Five Wonders is still in full operation.
As long as the Cowboys go, Five Wonders will be a weekly feature. And this week we are wondering about the future, immediate and in a few months.
Away we go:
Maybe six weeks ago I thought for sure Bruce Carter was playing his final days in a Cowboy uniform. He was benched in favor of Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber. He played only in situations. Now I wonder if the Cowboys bring him back. I wonder if they wonder if the light has finally come on for Carter. He has made splash plays before and he led the Cowboys with five interceptions in the regular season. He should have had his sixth Sunday but was unable to hold on to a seam throw from Matthew Stafford. At times Carter's seemingly indifference has maddened the coaches. They want to see him do it every play, every quarter, every game. He has done that for the last few weeks. There has to be some wonder if there's a little "contract year" thing at play here, but Carter might be playing his way into the Cowboys' future again.
And we're wondering the same thing for Anthony Spencer. He has been much more active the last few weeks. He says he feels more like his old self as he got more accustomed to playing on his surgically-repaired left knee. Returning from microfracture surgery is a long grind. It takes time. The Cowboys were patient and Spencer was patient. Now, it appears to be paying off. So I wonder what the Cowboys do with Spencer in the future. He turns 30 on Jan. 23. Can the Cowboys sign him to a short-term deal with decent pay? I'm not talking about a big payday, but a modest one. He cashed in with two franchise tag years for nearly $20 million. Could be the perfect transition type player, like Jeremy Mincey perhaps, where the Cowboys are able to rebuild the line through the draft while having competent veterans on hand?
Many moons ago I wondered if the Cowboys should sign Cole Beasley to a multiyear extension even though he is a restricted free agent in 2015. Again, not big money, but good money for a former undrafted slot receiver. He caught 37 passes for 420 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season and added four catches for 63 yards in the win against Detroit. Tony Romo trusts him and knows Beasley will make big plays and be unafraid to put his body on the line. But now I wonder if he has played so well that the Cowboys will have to put the second-round tender on Beasley, which could be $2.4 million. Because he was undrafted, the Cowboys would risk receiving no compensation on Beasley if they put the low-tender on him. I'm not sure how many teams would make a run at him, but he is a mismatch player the same way Danny Woodhead is (when healthy) with the San Diego Chargers. The slot game is of mega importance to offenses these days.
I wonder if DeMarcus Lawrence's game-clinching sack against the Lions breaks the dam for the rookie defensive end. He could not get the quarterback on the ground in the regular season and I'll admit I started to waver when he couldn't get home even when the Cowboys had big leads late in the season. But he was able to close the deal against the Lions. I am by no means putting him in DeMarcus Ware's category, but Ware had just four sacks in his first 14 games as a rookie, put up four in his final two games and exploded with seven straight seasons with double-digit sacks. I'm not predicting that, but sometimes all it takes is one sack for a player's confidence to rise and the Cowboys could sure use some of that Sunday against Aaron Rodgers.
I wonder if the Cowboys found something in running out of 11 personnel (three wide receivers) in the second half against the Lions. They have been a big two-tight end team with DeMarco Murray leading the NFL with 1,845 yards, but they ran into a wall against the Lions. In the second half, Murray had 12 carries for 45 yards. Ten of those carries came out of 11 personnel and picked up 44 yards. I've long thought Murray was at his best when the field was spread and that was evident to a degree Sunday. I'm not sure the Cowboys keep that going Sunday against the Packers -- or will need to -- but it's nice to know they have something to fall back on if the running game falters a little.