Jan 29, 2013, New Orleans, LA, USA; CBS sports Super Bowl XLVII play-by-play broadcaster Jim Nantz at press conference at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
As the draft quickly approaches, so does the intensity of it’s related rumors. And the one rumor to rule them all appears to be one about the Dallas Cowboys and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Now the latest spin on this increasingly growing ball of speculation comes from CBS Sportscaster Jim Nantz. In an interview Nantz did for ESPNCleveland’s The Hey Tony Show, the longtime NFL broadcaster revealed a rumor he’s been hearing concerning Manziel going to Dallas:
"“I can say this, (Manziel is) going to be the guy everyone wants to see. I’ve heard this rumor for a month — the Cowboys will figure out a way to get Manziel. Wherever Manziel goes, there is going to be more clamoring about Johnny Manziel than there would be about Blake Bortles going No. 1 or (Jadeveon) Clowney going No. 1, or anyone else. This is a guy that there’s just a tremendous interest in everything he does.”"
What’s interesting here is Nantz seems to be indicating that Dallas not only wants Manziel, but would be willing to trade up to get him. The idea that the Cowboys, who sported the worst defense in the NFL last season, would not only draft a quarterback with their first pick but also trade future picks as well to move up in this draft should be enough to send some Dallas fans into orbit. And we’re talking Sandra Bullock in Gravity spinning into utter nothingness-type orbit here.
But if you look at the Cowboys recent offseason signings, the idea that they have been preparing for such of move makes some sort of sense. After losing All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Ware, and defensive tackles Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff, Dallas has now signed defensive ends Anthony Spencer and Jeremy Mincey, and defensive tackles Henry Melton and Terrell McClain in their place. With young defensive lineman Ben Bass and Tyron Crawford returning from season-ending injuries as well, Dallas has seemingly turned their biggest weakness into a relatively decent line.
I’m sure defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will be looking to inject some youth and add more depth to it, but Dallas’ current defensive line is a lot better off than it was after Ware’s departure in early March.
So, if spending their top pick on a defensive lineman isn’t necessarily a “must”, then what is the Cowboys biggest draft need now? Would it be the safety position? How about their offensive line?
Then the question becomes is their a talented enough player at either of those positions worthy of a first-half first round pick? Honestly, I don’t think the Cowboys believe so. Not unless a player like Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan or Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews falls to them at No. 16. And at safety, I believe they like last year’s third round pick J.J. Wilcox for the starting job alongside Barry Church. They are simply not ready to give up on the second-year player whom they’ve already invested in.
Bottom line: The Cowboys have given themselves more flexibility with their top pick. They have more options. But for what purpose? Let’s not forget that they invested $119.5 million in their current starting quarterback at this same time last year.
But that quarterback, Tony Romo, just turned 34 years old. And he’s coming off two back procedures in less than a year. Let’s also not forget that former Dallas great and Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman retired when he was 34 due to his back issues. With current back-up Kyle Orton seriously considering retirement, and newly signed quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie yet to have any sustained success in the NFL, Dallas certainly has a need for a someone who can compete for Romo’s job. Manziel would certainly do that…and so much more. Maybe “too” much more.
Honestly, can you think of a bigger media bomb than Manziel in Dallas? Jersey and merchandise sales would hit the roof. Headlines would read Romo or Manziel all year. National media would cover us everyday. Imagine the focus on every bad throw. Every interception. The entire sporting world would look over to the Cowboys sideline, wondering when the former Heisman winner will get his chance. It would be the largest media circus we’ve probably ever seen. And the Cowboys owner and general manager, Jerry Jones, would love every minute of it. And it’s that last statement alone that really makes me think this rumor could be true.