Dallas Cowboys

May 6, 2014

Manziel factor won’t alter Cowboys’ draft plan

Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett consider quarterback a position of strength for Dallas.

There has been a lot of talk about what the Dallas Cowboys would do if Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel slipped to them with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

It seems to most like a match made in JerryWorld heaven: Jones, the ultimate salesman and Manziel, the lighting-rod player whom people can’t seem to get enough of.

Although the Cowboys have a franchise quarterback in Tony Romo and a plethora of other needs on the defensive side of the ball, the common thinking is that there is no way Jones could resist.

Well, to let Jones tell it, the chances of the Cowboys drafting Manziel are about as slim as Jimmy Johnson returning as coach.

He likes what the Cowboys have in Romo, and his primary focus is to win now and end their streak of back-to-back-to-back 8-8 seasons and four consecutive years sans playoffs.

Jones has no interest in starting over with a rookie quarterback, no matter how many tickets Manziel could potentially sell with his exciting play and off-the-field flamboyance.

“I’m not that gunned up over what a rookie quarterback could do for us this year,” Jones said during a pre-draft news conference at the team’s Valley Ranch headquarters Tuesday. “That takes time. This is not rebuilding time.”

Anything is still is possible, and this is the season of misinformation as teams try to hide their draft plays up until it’s time to pick.

But Jones was consistent in his backing of Romo as Dallas’ leader, despite his coming off of his second back surgery in as many off-seasons.

Jones has no question about Romo being ready to go in 2014. He also called the quarterback spot a position of strength for the Cowboys, not just with Romo but with Kyle Orton and Brandon Weeden as the primary backups.

And considering obvious problems the Cowboys had on defense last season, the need to improve there outweighs any interest in drafting a quarterback for the future.

“It is logical that your position of strength would certainly not qualify for the most need in the first or second or early rounds,” Jones said. “It does not qualify for the biggest need. I will go as far as to say it is not our primary goal in the first round to be looking at a quarterback. We’ve got a good one.”

Jones however, is excited about the possibility of Manziel being on the draft board when the Cowboys pick at 16 — not to draft him, but rather because of the opportunities it opens for possibly trading back and adding more picks.

The Cowboys need help at a number of positions, and getting an extra pick or two in a possible trade likely would be better for the team .

Coach Jason Garrett echoed Jones in saying that Romo, a 10-year veteran, is right on schedule in his rehab from December back surgery.

The Cowboys moved to the second phase of their off-season program this week, and Romo was out on the field throwing with the other quarterbacks — though he is not doing as much because he is still in rehabbing from the surgery.

“He’s really just going through the rehab process,” Garrett said. “He’s just going through the different lifting and the cardio stuff that he’s doing. Today he was on the field throwing a little bit. He mixed in with the other quarterbacks today. Obviously, they’re further along physically than he is.

“But he’s just trying to get his feet underneath him and start throwing the ball around a little bit. So we’ll see how he responds to all that, and then we’ll continue to make decisions about what should be next.”

Garrett reiterated Jones’ point that the Cowboys are nowhere close to being in rehab mode. And considering he is in the last year of his contract and needs to win to return in 2015, Garrett has no interest in playing a rookie quarterback now or drafting a future replacement.

He went so far as saying that Romo was in the prime of his career, despite being 34 and coming off surgery.

“To me, he’s a very young player,” Garrett said. “He moves around really well. He hasn’t lost any mobility, ability to get away from people. I think his arm is better than ever, so we don’t look at him despite his back situation that he’s had over the last couple of years as somebody who is an old player by any means. We feel like Tony Romo has a lot of great years of football left in him.”

More important, the Cowboys think they can win in 2014 with Romo if they can get him some help on defense and keep him healthy.

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