Why the Dallas Cowboys Should Stay Away from Johnny Manziel at No. 16

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Why the Dallas Cowboys Should Stay Away from Johnny Manziel at No. 16
Michael Conroy

Johnny Manziel may very well be the best quarterback in the NFL draft, but the Cowboys should not select him with the No. 16 overall pick if he's available. 

In ESPN Insider's Todd McShay's latest mock draft (subscription required), Johnny Manziel fell all the way to the Browns' pick at No. 26. However, ESPN's Ed Werder said the Cowboys would seriously consider drafting Manziel at pick No. 16:

This has led to a large majority of Cowboys' nation salivating at the thought of drafting someone of Manziel's caliber:

It seems like the type of move Jerry Jones would make. Plus, Jones has raved about Manziel any chance he has gotten. Jones told 105.3 The Fan's Ben and Skin Show (h/t The Dallas Morning News):

I’m a big fan of his, a serious fan of his, as a football player, as a winner. I think it’s highly likely that he’s going to go to a club and since that is the most important position on the club, will elevate that club in the NFL. No doubt in my mind he’s going to be an outstanding NFL football player.

Manziel has stated that he grew up a Cowboys fan and would love to play for them:

Furthermore, Manziel would likely be the best player available for the Cowboys if he was still on the board at No. 16: 

Nevertheless, the Cowboys should not draft Manziel in the first round. 

The Cowboys have too many glaring needs on their team, especially on defense, to make a luxury pick like Manziel in the first round.

With head coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli entering the final year of their contracts, the Cowboys need to win now. With Tony Romo as starting quarterback, Manziel would likely not start for the Cowboys in the immediate future. That means Manziel would most likely not make a real impact on the Cowboys until 2017.  

If the Cowboys want to win next year, they need to upgrade at positions like strong- and weak-side defensive end, free safety and one-technique defensive tackle, to name a few. Moreover, the best place to upgrade a position in the draft is with a first-round pick.

If the Cowboys drafted Manziel, they would be taking away the pick that has the best possibility of helping the Cowboys now. Also, it would make it less likely the Cowboys could fill the holes on their team. 

However, many analysts and fans have pointed to the Packers drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2005 as an example as to why the Cowboys should do it. Bleacher Report's Brad Gagnon wrote:

These days, the easiest way to rebuild in a quick, efficient fashion is by grooming your next franchise quarterback, sometimes before his predecessor has left town. 

That happened in Green Bay, where Aaron Rodgers backed up Brett Favre for the first three years of his NFL career, starting zero games during that span. If Manziel were to hold a clipboard just as long in Dallas, he'd get his chance to start three months before his 25th birthday. 

Sure enough, Rodgers made his first start in Green Bay about exactly three months before his 25th birthday. 

Nevertheless, Gagnon is looking over the fact that the Packers were believed to be good enough to make a luxury pick in Rodgers. In 2004, the Packers went 10-6 and made it to the playoffs. Therefore, going into the 2005 NFL draft they were thought to be a good enough team to be able to pick a player who would not make an immediate impact.

Even though the Packers had down years in 2005 and 2006, their talent shined through in 2007 when they went 13-3 and made it to the NFC Championship game without Aaron Rodgers playing any significant amount of time. 

The Cowboys are not coming off of a playoff season; if they were, this would be a totally different discussion. The Cowboys need to focus on getting over the 8-8 hump, and Manziel won't help do that for a few years. 

This doesn't mean the Cowboys should not draft a quarterback in any round. In fact, I wrote last week that the Cowboys should draft a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds.

If the Cowboys drafted a quarterback in the fourth round they would be passing on a player like Oregon's Josh Huff or Furman's Dakota Dozier instead of passing on a player like UCLA's Anthony Barr or Notre Dame's Zack Martin in the first round. The latter two are much likelier to be impact players than the former pair. 

If the Cowboys want to draft a quarterback in the first round to replace Romo, they should do so in the 2015 NFL draft.

With Tony Romo turning 34 and coming off of two back surgeries in one year, he likely only has two or three good years left. If the Cowboys are as committed to Romo as they say they are, then they need to draft players they believe would give them the best shot to win with Romo. 

Even if you believe the Cowboys won't do well in the next couple years, they are committed to Romo until at least the 2017 season. According to OverTheCap.com, the Cowboys would lose $9.635 million on the cap if Romo were cut in 2015 and $1.5 million on the cap if he were cut in 2016. But if Romo were cut in 2017, the Cowboys would save $11.5 million. This means Romo will likely be the Cowboys' starter and basically uncuttable until 2017. 

Tony Romo's Contract
Year Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2015 $27,773,000 $37,408,000 -$9,635,000
2016 $17,635,000 $19,135,000 -$1,500,000
2017 $21,500,000 $10,000,000 $11,500,000

OverTheCap.com

Therefore, if the Cowboys drafted a quarterback in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft, the player would still be able to sit and learn in the 2015 and 2016 seasons and be ready to start in 2017. 

The Cowboys have been one win away from going to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. For the Cowboys to get over that hump in the next season or two, they need to get instant impact from their early draft picks, and Manziel simply won't do that. 

Picking Manziel would be drafting for the future. The Cowboys need to draft for now. 

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