Mailbag: Nick & Rob
JAKE SANDER – CHICAGO,IL: Why not Dexter McCluster for punt/kickoff returns, and slot receiver/RB? 2nd round?
Rob: Nick and I agree that a returner should be a priority for the Dallas Cowboys. Two things about McCluster: Assuming all three running backs return, can you find enough jobs for McCluster? And where exactly will he fall in the draft? His stock is rising. I’m not sure it’s a second-round priority, but they do need more out of kick returns in particular.
Nick: I’m a huge fan of McCluster. I’ve seen him several games in college and I just think he’s a good football player, although you don’t know exactly where or how he’ll contribute. We saw all this stuff about returning kicks and punts, but he really didn’t do it a lot in college. He only practiced it at the Senior Bowl and wasn’t really that great. So he has the ability to do all of that, but not really the experience. Of course, if he’s around in the second round, I would definitely consider it because he’s a playmaker. And you can find ways to use playmakers.
DAVE NICHOLS – BOISE,ID: Are you worried that a team like the Dolphins will make a run at Miles Austin? He will be much more productive than any rookie receiver this year and is still young. Could they put a “poison pill” in a contract that allows them to offer 6 years and $6.5 million per year but promise he’ll be the highest paid receiver on the team? That would mean the Boys have the “match” the offer by exceeding Roy Williams’ contract, right?
Rob: Not sure about your math, but I get your point. Poison pills have been used, but the league is wising up to them. I don’t think that will be an issue, mainly because I don’t see a team willing to give up that much. Yes, Bill Parcells parted with those two picks for Curtis Martin, and he has ties to Austin. But remember how much he valued the draft here in Dallas. No way for a receiver.
Nick: First of all, poison pills are strongly discouraged by the NFL and it would definitely create bad blood between two teams. I doubt Parcells and Jeff Ireland would do that to Jerry and I don’t think any other team will either. But even if there is such a stipulation in the contract, Austin doesn’t have to sign it. If there is an offer made, he doesn’t actually have to make it official. I would think by then the Cowboys could figure out a way to keep him with another contract. But Jerry has made it very clear, Austin isn’t going anywhere.
WILLIAM HOUCHINS – BEAVER, WV: Which position should take precedent in the draft for depth purposes: inside or outside linebacker?
Nick: I think you have to go for inside linebacker because of age. Ware and Spencer are in their prime and the Cowboys drafted Butler and Brandon Williams last year. But inside, Keith Brooking is entering his 13th year and even Bradie James, while still productive, is pushing 30. Even though the Cowboys have Jason Williams behind them, I would think middle linebacker would be a decent priority in the draft this year.
Rob: Both positions could use some depth. I’ll say outside linebacker because you can never have too many. It’s the primary pass rush position in a 3-4. Victor Butler and Brandon Williams are still learning, and Williams is coming off a season-ending knee injury. This might be a spot where the Cowboys add a veteran backup, though I’d be surprised if it’s Greg Ellis.
EDWIN R – ALLENTOWN, PA: I keep on hearing and seeing that people want to draft a receiver or safety or even trade for someone on another team. However, I just wonder do any of these people that want us to draft in the first round realize that if we draft a receiver or safety or whatever other position we draft for, that player needs to be able to play immediately because of the high price that we are paying for him. Am I right on this?
Nick: Well usually, I would say you are correct in that way of thinking. However, and I hate for this to sound like the Cowboys are completely set without any room for improvement, but you can’t really find a lot of positions where a rookie would realistically come in and start, especially the 27th pick in the draft. Sure it could happen, but not likely. So therefore, I think the Cowboys continue to draft the highest-graded player on their board and find a spot for him, whether he’s starting or not.
Rob: I think they need a first-round player; no trading down. They didn’t have a first- or second-round pick in 2009. No matter which position, though, that player will have a hard time starting right away. Name a position besides maybe safety where there could be a significant personnel change in the starting lineup. If it turns out to be left tackle, Doug Free is the guy.
EDWARD WIGGLESWORTH – PORT CHARLOTTE, FL: It would only take a first-round pick to sign Jared Gaither, a potential franchise left tackle, away from the Ravens. It appears time is running out with Flozell Adams. Am I crazy, or does a move to get this guy make too much sense? What am I missing?
Rob: You’re missing Doug Free. Why give up a first-round pick if you think you’ve already got a future left tackle, if not this year then next? Offensive line depth is a priority, but I think Free gives them flexibility to possibly look at other positions with that first pick.
Nick: You’re missing the point the Cowboys don’t really want to pay that much money for a left tackle when they are hoping Doug Free can be the answer at a much cheaper price – for now. And I don’t think the Cowboys are going to part ways with a first-round pick again. They did it last year and so far, it hasn’t paid off. I think if the Cowboys decide to cut Adams, they will expect Free to take over this year and maybe draft a young lineman at some point in the draft to groom along as well.
RUSSELL JAMES – SPANAWAY, WA: Gentlemen, even though the Cowboys received a later-than-expected first-round pick from Cleveland, is it now safe to say the Cowboys won on the draft day trade for Brady Quinn?
Rob: I don’t think there’s any question they did. That extra first-round pick turned out to be Felix Jones, arguably the most explosive player on offense entering next season. And Tony Romo turned out to be the guy they thought. Win-win for Dallas.
Nick: I don’t think there’s any question about that. What Jerry Jones should be given credit for is that instead of saying “we already have a quarterback and don’t need Quinn” he put his businessman cap on and found someone who did want a quarterback. As it turned out, Quinn for Felix Jones, yeah, I’ll take that all day. And the best part is that the Cowboys were able to trade back into the first round and get Anthony Spencer, just a few picks later than they were originally slated for that year.