Commentary

Marshall trade makes Williams deal sting

Updated: April 16, 2010, 9:37 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

We are one week away from the NFL draft. This week, some of you are more interested in what the Cowboys might do in the first two days of the draft than about what to do with Roy Williams.

However, we've got our best Williams question of the offseason so far. We also talk about the safety position in this week's mailbag. Next week it's all about the draft, and we'll recap it for you then.

Q: I'm being totally serious here: why would you want to trade Tony Romo for Donovan McNabb? Has he ever won a Super Bowl? And Brandon Marshall for two second-round picks, Roy Williams for a one, two and a six -- how's that looking, Jerry Jones? Or did you make that trade at a bar? -- J. Waterman (Belmont, N.H.)

A: The Cowboys will not trade Tony Romo for Donovan McNabb. Won't do it. In fact, McNabb's already been dealt. I'm sure you know the Washington Redskins traded for McNabb. He has some skins on the wall; he's been to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl. Romo just won his first playoff game. McNabb is entering the backside of his career and Romo, who turns 30 next week, is moving into the prime of his career. As for Roy Williams trade, yes the Cowboys gave up too much and paid too much for him. The deal compared with the Dolphins' trade for Marshall looks bad. Marshall is a better player than Williams, no doubt about that.

Q: Rather than proposing the Cowboys move Roy Williams (which they can't), I would be interested to know how the coaching staff, especially the wide receivers coach, evaluated his performance, and what type of plan is in place to help him perform at a higher level. -- Mike (White Rock, British Columbia)

A: Of all the questions we've received this offseason regarding Williams, this was the best one. The Cowboys plan on targeting Williams more this season. He wants a bigger role in the offense and the Cowboys plan on giving it to him. Jerry Jones said Williams was double-covered some last year, opening the door for Miles Austin to have a Pro Bowl season. I don't think Williams was double-covered that much. I think he saw a lot of single coverage but just didn't get the ball. Williams has to run better routes, and Tony Romo has to force the ball to him a little bit more. Romo doesn't like to throw passes into tight coverage, which Williams receives. That has to change. Receivers coach Ray Sherman, whom I'm sure was slightly disappointed in the numbers, expects Williams to get better this season.

Q: How come the Cowboys are not making any moves thus far? Heck, they have no cap and the Super Bowl is being played in Arlington this year. -- Chuck Sullins (Kodiak, Alaska)

A: Why should they, Chuck? Stephen Jones said the team likes the core group of players and in the last three years have locked up Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Marion Barber, Marc Colombo and Terence Newman to long-term, big-money deals. The issue for the Cowboys is the draft. The 2009 class was bad, and the front office is determined to make 2010 better. The Cowboys need young impact players. That was something they didn't get last year. Coming into free agency, the Cowboys had the NFL's highest payroll at $125 million, and that has decreased by $12 million with the departures of Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin. I don't believe the Cowboys figured to be big players in free agency. There is an interest in linebacker Greg Ellis and safety O.J. Atogwe. There are also rumors the Cowboys are interested in Baltimore Ravens tackle Jared Gaither, but not enough to force a trade. Like I said, the Cowboys like the core group of players they have right now and expect that disappointing draft class of 2009 and the upcoming draft class of 2010 to make an impact this season.

Q: Do you believe Roy Williams will have a decent season this year? And if he starts out slow, will Jerry Jones cut him and take the loss and chalk it up as a bust? -- Brady Parker (Harlingen, Texas)

A: Brady, regardless of what happens this year, Roy Williams will not get cut during the season. Will Williams have a decent year? I thought he would have one last year with Terrell Owens in Buffalo, but it didn't happen. I think Romo has to trust him more often, and until he does that, Williams' numbers won't get better.

Q: What are the chances that Jerry moves into the top 15 to grab Eric Berry or Earl Thomas? In my opinion, Berry is a golden chip at safety that only comes around every five to seven years, like an Ed Reed type. -- David (Dallas)

A: The guys who do the scouting for the Cowboys believe Eric Berry, Earl Thomas and Taylor Mays will be gone by the time the Cowboys pick at 27. Should they trade up and get one of them? Berry will be long gone, maybe in the top 10. Thomas, top 15. Is Mays worth trading up for? The Cowboys could wait for Morgan Burnett or Nate Allen, but they have second-round grades. It's hard to predict.

Q: With an obvious need at offensive tackle and safety, I have high hopes the Cowboys don't reach for a need. With the release of Adams and Hamlin, you would think they have players in place that are capable of moving up the depth chart. How would you grade last year's draft and the players impact? Cory (Little Rock, Ark.)

A: The bad thing about last year's draft is that of the 12 picks, only two made an impact: kicker David Buehler and backup tight end John Phillips. Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith were cut. Robert Brewster, Michael Hamlin, Stephen McGee, Stephen Hodge, Jason Williams and Brandon Williams were all hurt. Victor Butler, while starting for DeMarcus Ware in New Orleans, played badly. Now the veteran backups on this team will be fine. Doug Free will replace Flozell Adams at left tackle. The free safety spot is interesting. Ken Hamlin was an average player last year, and that was part of the reason the Cowboys cut him. Alan Ball and Hamlin are possible replacements. Drafting a safety is another possibly. I think the Cowboys draft a safety in the first round this year.

Q: Who do you think the Cowboys will draft in the second round? -- Johnny Brigham (Haslet, Texas)

A: I think Dallas gets a safety in the first round. In the second, expect them to improve the offensive line. Will Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis be around? How about Charles Brown from USC? Mike Johnson, the guard from Alabama, and Texas Tech's Brandon Carter could be available on the second day. It's hard to say.

Q: What are the odds of the Cowboys getting Dez Bryant? -- Michael Jones (Dallas)

A: Slim. The Cowboys like him, but it's doubtful Bryant will be there at 27. I also don't see the Cowboys moving up to get him.

Q: Is Felix Jones going to be the starter this coming season? -- Jerry (Mercedes, Texas)

A: Very good chance. The Cowboys talked about switching Barber and Jones last year but decided against it. Good thing, because Jones was nicked up again. However, when healthy, Jones is one of the Cowboys' more productive backs. With Barber nicked up toward the end of the season again, Jones led the team in rushing with 30 carries for 217 yards and one touchdown. It wouldn't surprise me if the Cowboys opened up the starting job this year. But Jerry Jones probably wants Barber (who is determined to prove he can play at a high level in 2010) to start and get Felix Jones more carries.

Q: Dick Motta once said, "The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement." Last year, several Cowboys made great strides -- Romo, Austin, Jenkins, Spencer, Free, Felix Jones and even coach Wade Phillips. Do you think Romo can improve again this year, and who else will step up? -- Confab Johnson (Titletown)

A: Where is Dick Motta these days? Somebody find a story on him for me. Well, I would say Romo improved so much in 2009, especially in eliminating turnovers, that I think the next step is to make those around him better. I don't think he's done that yet. For all the success Miles Austin had last year, you wonder whether it was because teams didn't respect him. He struggled against teams with pressing cornerbacks last year: Green Bay, Washington and Philadelphia. Romo has to help Austin break free by challenging the cornerbacks more. Who needs to improve in 2010? Scandrick, Colombo, Watkins, Barber, Hurd and Williams could all use a better 2010.

Q: Don't you think that the Cowboys would get rid of Patrick Crayton at wide receiver and try to get a better prospect? Patrick doesn't do anything for the Cowboys. -- Luis Figueroa (Tucson, Ariz.)

A: That's harsh. Crayton was pretty solid for what he is, a No. 3 receiver. Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree couldn't surpass him on the depth chart last year, and some might say Crayton had a better year than Williams in terms of helping the team. Crayton is not the fastest man in the world, and you would like to get someone who can wiggle free on punt returns. The team tried this with Felix Jones and failed at doing that. This year, expect the Cowboys to find a return man who can make an impact.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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