IRVING, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys returning to Lambeau Field this week, it’s easy to wonder about what could have been had Dez Bryant's catch at the goal line not been overturned last January.
The Cowboys would have had a one- or three-point lead with a touchdown and two-point conversion had they scored a play or two later. Maybe Aaron Rodgers would have just zipped the Packers down the field with a winning drive. Maybe the defense would have gotten a stop.
Anyway, there’s more to wonder this week. We’ve got five things, actually.
Away we go:
The Philadelphia Eagles demoted DeMarco Murray last week, which is stunning considering the $21 million they guaranteed the running back last March. That’s how bad the season has gone for Murray, who has 163 carries for 569 yards and four touchdowns. Could the Eagles do the unthinkable and part ways with Murray after the season? The salary cap makes it almost impossible to even think about. His 2016 $7 million base salary is guaranteed. But let’s say the Eagles choose to do it. I wonder if the Cowboys would jump on the chance to re-sign him. Actually, I more than wonder it. I would expect the Cowboys to get involved in the mix. The Cowboys miss Murray badly, and it’s clear Murray misses the Cowboys. The Eagles’ offense is just not a good fit for Murray. The Cowboys’ offense is a perfect fit. Now, what kind of contract would you give Murray, who would be a year older, although not with the wear of a big-carry season? The Cowboys offered Murray $6 million per year with $12 million guaranteed after he led the NFL with 1,845 yards rushing.
Two years ago there was a fight -- if you can call it that -- in the Cowboys’ draft room over Johnny Manziel. Jerry Jones kept bringing up Manziel’s name as the quarterback dropped in the first round. The Cowboys ultimately chose Zack Martin, a wise move. Manziel’s two years with the Cleveland Browns have been a mess, and perhaps he plays his way out of there over the final month of the season now that he is the starter again. I wonder if those who opposed drafting Manziel in the first round two years ago will have the same resolve to stand up to Jones should Manziel become available in the offseason. There is a big difference in this fight: Manziel will come a lot cheaper than a first-round pick. I’ve been on record the Cowboys should pass on Manziel. It’s not a talent thing. It’s an off-field thing. I just believe Dallas would be the worst place for Manziel to stay on the straight and narrow.
Jason Witten reached 1,000 career catches on Monday, but I wonder how many catches he will finish with in his career. Tony Gonzalez has the most by a tight end in NFL history with 1,325, and I don't think Witten will reach that mark. Let’s say he finishes this season with 75 catches, which would leave him behind wide receiver Isaac Bruce, who had 1,024 receptions. Witten turns 34 in May and is signed through 2017. Marvin Harrison is third all-time with 1,102 catches. If Witten kept up a 60-catch pace in the final two years he is under contract, he would catch Harrison (although Larry Fitzgerald might keep him out of the top three). That certainly seems doable with how Witten has performed this year with three quarterbacks. With a full season of a healthy Romo, Witten should be able to get over the 1,100-catch mark.
There is plenty of time to wonder about the draft, but we’re already getting a lot of questions about who the Cowboys should take or what position they should be taking. Everybody, it seems, wants them to draft a quarterback, especially early. I can’t disagree with the assessment, but I wonder if the Cowboys’ top need is at cornerback. Morris Claiborne will be a free agent and is uncertain to return. Brandon Carr is scheduled to make $9 million in the final year of his deal, and I have a hard time seeing that happen. Orlando Scandrick will be back from major knee surgery, and I believe Byron Jones' best spot is at safety. Add it all up, and the Cowboys need to address the corner spot in a big way.
As long as the Cowboys are in the playoff chase I won’t wonder this, but if they somehow fall out of it with losses in their next two games, I wonder if they will give rookie Chaz Green a look at right tackle. He has been activated off the physically unable to perform list and was inactive Monday. He has not practiced much at all this year and the Cowboys have to be smart in putting him in a position to succeed. To ask him to play 70 snaps probably isn’t the way to go. A few years ago the Cowboys split time between Doug Free and Jermey Parnell at right tackle. I wonder if they go with a split between Free and Green should they fall out of contention. It would help them know what they have in Green for the future while not overexposing him too soon.