We are on the cusp of the NFL Scouting Combine, and every die hard fan will be glued to their televisions this weekend. The Combine really marks the start of all the draft intrigue that will put everyone’s predictions and scenarios in high gear. NFL Network, and in particular Mike Mayock do an outstanding job covering each prospect, you’ll hear words like “quick twitch” “faster than quick” “high motor guy” all of which have become synonymous with draft season vernacular.

I wanted to bounce some pre-combine discussion with long time friend Jesse Haynie over at CowboysAddicts.com. I’ve known Haynie for many years now, and his coverage on the Cowboys is some of my favorite bar-none. If you haven’t had a chance to check him out, get over there and check out his articles. Alright, so let’s get into this.

CowboysBlog.Net 1): What’s your thought on Ware’s future in Dallas? What’s your gut feeling with what the Cowboys will do with him?

Jesse Haynie: Ware’s future is not only the biggest question facing the Cowboys this offseason, but it’s also hardest to predict. A big reason for that is not knowing just what the conversations about his taking a paycut sounds like and where the two sides stand on the matter.

JH: Saving $7.4 million by cutting Ware make a lot of sense given his diminishing skills. It’s the move that the Patriots or Steelers would likely make. We know that Jerry Jones doesn’t operate that way, though, and I think that means Ware will remain here under a reduced salary
JH: However, if Ware puts his foot down and refuses the paycut, then he may force Dallas’ hand. The salary cap situation is drastic, and you know what they always say about drastic times.
2) There hasn’t been much said about Spencer, is he the darkhorse in all this; as in, If they sign Spencer would letting Ware go be an easier decision?
JH: Part of me wants to look at Spencer like any other team would; a 30-year-old with sporadic seasons of high performance who’s coming back from season-ending microfracture knee surgery. That’s hardly enticing.
JH: You’d also be asking him to convert to a down defensive end. Some scouts say he’d be better at that than as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but it’s still a major x-factor.
JH: Again, like Ware, it all depends on the money. Spencer has made a lot of it over the last two years and might be willing to accept a one-year deal in Dallas to reprove himself. However, he could probably get that deal at any point of the spring or summer. If I was his agent, I’d be telling him to see what happens on the open market with the rising number of 3-4 defenses in the league and see if someone might give him a solid contract with some security.
JH: If Spencer does come back to Dallas, I don’t think it happens until the late stages of free agency or perhaps even after the draft.
3) Let’s dive into the draft now. We’ll do 2 scenarios revolving around Ware. (1) If Ware remains on the team, and we have Selvie on the opposite side, What makes the most logical position to draft in your eyes? (1b) If Ware is gone, what does Jerry do draft wise to shore up the spot?
JH: It’s difficult to discuss the defensive end strategy without looking at the line as a whole. Is Jason Hatcher still around? Let’s assume not, especially in the scenario where Ware is still on the team. At that point, I think you have to ride with Ware, Selvie, and the returning Tyrone Crawford and spend your first-round pick at defensive tackle.
JH: Even with Ware gone you could argue that Dallas still has more to work with at end. They were very high on Crawford during training camp and Selvie was a great find. Everette Brown flashed a few times last year and Caesar Rayford is an intriguing project player. Meanwhile, at tackle, you’d have Nick Hayden returning and Ben Bass coming back from surgery, with really nothing else to talk about.
JH: Honestly, I’m starting to buy into the idea if Dallas taking a stud safety in the first round and then trusting Rod Marinelli to work some magic with defensive linemen taken in Rounds 2-4.
JH: Only if Ware is gone and Hatcher stays do I put end ahead of tackle of my list of defensive needs.
4) Let’s talk about the idea of drafting a safety. I’m starting to see safety for us in about half the mock drafts I’ve looked at heading into the combine. I’m intrigued by it as well, being that we have never established a franchise guy back there. Who do like coming out in this draft?
JH: There’s obviously Clinton-Dix from Alabama, who at this point is the only safety many Cowboys fans would accept without rioting. And, frankly, if Dallas is going to spend a first-rounder at the position then they’d better come away with someone of Ha-Ha’s profile and potential.
JH: I also like Ed Reynolds out of Stanford, who made all-conference teams based on opponents’ respect and fear more than statistics. Depending on his combine, he’s a guy that I think could rise up to being a worthy first-round pick.
JH: What’s interesting here is that Barry Church, Jeff Heath, Matt Johnson, and J.J. Wilcox are all still under contract. That’s a returning starter and three interesting young players, and it just goes to show why whoever Dallas takes has to have a lot of hype to walk in as a starter.
5) You talked about possibly taking a DT earlier. Aaron Donald seems to be the hot name right now. Do you like him enough at #16 or do you prefer another DT?
JH: Aaron Donald is your classic, “what have you done for me lately?” draft prospect. The Senior Bowl was the last big event and he had a great day, so naturally he’s a hot name. After the combine he could suddenly be below ten other names and out of the first round.
JH: The guy can obviously play, but we’re entering the time of year when people see “six-feet-tall” and “below 300 lbs.” and start poking holes. I have a hard time believing he’d still be a Top 20 prospect come the draft, but an exceptional combine could prove me wrong.
6) Let’s look at defensive end in the first round. Who do you like for a DE at #16, any interest in trading up for Clowney?
JH: On Clowney, I just can’t imagine it’s on the table. The jump from the 16th pick to the Top 5 is huge and Dallas needs every pick they have to bring in talent given their lack of cap room. Clowney is about to enjoy the reverse of what I discussed with Dalton, where the measurables will make his stock explode. I think he’s entirely out of Dallas’ range.9:23 PM
JH: Right now I honestly don’t have a defensive end who I’m high on for the first round. I need the combine to start sifting through the non-Clowney masses.
7) What is the one thing you don’t want to see Dallas do in the first round or perhaps in this draft in general?
JH: If they spend the first-round pick on anything but defense I’m going to be disappointed. Make no mistake; the Cowboys offense was good enough to make and compete in the playoffs last year. The defense kept us home in January and has to be addressed.
JH: The beauty is that you could make a case for Dallas to draft at any position but corner using the first-rounder, so that leaves a lot of flexibility for them to get the best possible talent.
JH: My only fear is that that same flexibility will be a trap for Jerry to try and get cute with trade-downs. It worked out last year with Travis Frederick, but generally we’ve looked back on those moves with regrets. Sit tight at the 16th pick and draft a great player
Enjoy the Combine this weekend and be sure to check back for more chats with Haynie. You can follow him on Twitter: @CBA_Haynie