Mel Kiper picks QB for Cowboys in latest mock draft

IRVING, Texas -- It’s now official, ESPN Insiders Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have the Dallas Cowboys taking a quarterback in their most recent mock drafts.

Kiper’s second mock draft was released Thursday, and he has the Cowboys selecting California’s Jared Goff. McShay had the Cowboys taking North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz.

Kiper had Wentz going No. 2 overall to the Browns.

We’ve examined Dallas' need for a quarterback already. Quick summation: Tony Romo turns 36 in April. He has battled back and collarbone injuries the past three seasons, missing 14 games. While the Cowboys believe Romo has some top years left in him, they don’t have a settled backup and taking a quarterback starts the succession plan.

But in order to take a quarterback, the Cowboys have to prepare for the possibility of not having him play for at least the first two years of his contract, if not three years, if that is indeed how long Romo has left.

To take a quarterback, the Cowboys have to be comfortable knowing the guy might not play. I realize many of you are saying, ‘Romo is always hurt.’ Before last year, he had missed two of 64 starts from 2011-14. Romo has said his back feels as good now as it has in four years. The collarbone issue could be alleviated with an upcoming surgery.

It’s a risk either way. Last year’s backup play helped contribute to the Cowboys’ 4-12 record. If something happened to Romo short-term or long-term, having a talent like Goff would be nice.

Goff has the arm. He moves well. He’s smart. He might trust his arm a little too much at times, but he can make the throws. In my uninformed opinion, he's better than Wentz or Paxton Lynch.

But let’s talk contract for a second.

The fourth pick in the draft is looking at a four-year, fully guaranteed deal worth about $24 million. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, the cost of picking so high has come way down. A team then has a fifth-year option to lock down the player after his third year.

So let’s say the Cowboys draft a quarterback at No. 4 and he doesn’t receive significant playing time in his first two years. Maybe he doesn’t play at all and goes into 2018 as the starter.

That’s a 16-game tryout to see whether you want to pick up the fifth-year option or commit long-term. If it goes well and you pick up the option, which will be the cost of the transition tag in 2020, then you’re talking in the neighborhood of $20 million for that season. The quarterback transition tag this year is expected to be $17.5 million.

By then the cap could be close to $200 million, so maybe you’d be OK with that figure. But that’s a lot of cash spent on a relatively unknown quantity. The Cowboys signed Romo to his first big-time extension ($67.5 million, $30 million guaranteed) after 17 starts in two seasons.

That gamble worked out well.

Do I think the Cowboys will draft a quarterback this spring? Yes. Do I think they will use the fourth overall pick on a quarterback? No, not at this time.