INDIANAPOLIS – Don't ask Jerry Jones how he's going to spend his No. 4 overall draft pick, because the Cowboys' owner and general manager doesn't know.
That's to be expected, considering the Cowboys are just finishing their stint at the 2016 NFL Combine and still have two months to come to a decision.
Talking to him on Saturday afternoon, though, it was easy to feel skeptical that Jones feels the need to invest a top-5 draft pick in the quarterback position. After all, it would be hard to justify such an investment when Jones said he still sees a long-term future for starting quarterback Tony Romo.
"What is the one unequivocal fact that you can count on, relative to the preparation of this draft and on draft day, is that I'm planning on Romo being the quarterback for the next four or five years," Jones said. "That's a fact. You won't see a decision on draft day that will fly in the face of not believing, from our standpoint, that he'll be our quarterback for four or five years."
Jones' quote cuts straight to the core of the biggest question surrounding the Cowboys' upcoming draft. Should they add an immediate-impact player to their roster in the hopes of bolstering their chances of contending with Romo? Or should they turn an eye toward the future and select a top-tier rookie quarterback, adding an insurance policy for the soon-to-be 36 Romo?
It's an issue that has already been addressed ad nauseam, and no two opinions appear to be the same. There is a limitless number of playmakers who could help the Cowboys return to the winning ways of 2014, and there's a handful of quarterbacks with All-Pro potential. The highly-touted trio of Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch and Carson Wentz worked out in front of NFL scouts on Saturday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Compounding the issue is the lingering memory of Romo's past injuries – a herniated disc that abruptly ended his 2013 season, a broken transverse process that briefly sidelined him in 2014 and two broken collar bones that knocked him out of 12 games last fall.
Romo is expected to undergo a CT scan on his mending collarbone this week, and he has indicated to reporters that he may have surgery to insert a plate to help prevent further injury. Regardless of his decision, Jones didn't seem troubled by his quarterback's health going forward.
"There is no issue. There are no surprises," he said. "We have very good communication at length, as recently as when he went to the Super Bowl. We had long discussions about this. So there is no angst on my part or our part."
Even with Romo healthy for the offseason program – which he is expected to be – the concerns are understandable. Jones mentioned his disappointment at the Cowboys' inability to find production from their backup quarterbacks last season. He also noted the benefit of having a young quarterback learning from an established starter, noting the oft-cited example of Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre in Green Bay.
"Something like that could happen if we decided to go quarterback at some level," he said. "I emphasize that – at some level."
In that same breath, however, Jones noted a major difference in the two situations, repeating that he sees Romo's future in Dallas lasting just a bit longer.[embeddedad0]
"The only difference is we have in-house in Romo the person that I believe will be doing the heavy lifting for us at quarterback and for the team for the next four or five years," he said.
It would be a mistake to read too much into pre-draft commentary. With such a lofty pick, the Cowboys can be expected to do their due diligence on every possible prospect, and commentary from February may be irrelevant by April. Jones said himself that the pick might not be decided until the final possible moments.
"I couldn't tell you today at all how we might make the decision," he said. "This is one of those that might not be made until we're down to the last 10 seconds on the clock."
That might be true, as it's a given that the draft process has many more twists and turns in store. But as the Cowboys dive deeper into their preparations for this year's pick, Jones' confidence in his current quarterback is worth keeping in mind.
"I think Romo is going to be our quarterback for four or five years," he said. "And we'll make all decisions accordingly."