The Dallas Cowboys are undergoing some big changes on the defensive side of the ball this season, and as the team makes the transition to a 4-3 defensive front under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, one player isn't doing himself any favors when it comes to his chances of being around for that switch.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who managed only 16 tackles in six games for the Cowboys in 2012, was arrested in Texas and charged with DUI after his car hit a tractor trailer in Grapevine on Thursday morning, according to Sarah Mervosh of The Dallas Morning News.
There have been rumors swirling for weeks that Ratliff's time in Dallas could be coming to an end, ever since a heated confrontation between the 31-year-old and team owner Jerry Jones on December 10th.
However, at that time, Jones shot those rumors down, standing by his player according to John Machota of The News.
“Jay has had injuries this year that are just mind-boggling, considering the player that he’s been for us. We let the emotion of the game the other day get to us, but that’s just the way things work sometime. He wants to win. He wants to do everything he can for the team, and that’s the way I want it.”'
Jones needs to reconsider that position, for a number of reasons.
First, the simple fact is that Ratliff isn't the player he once was, and hasn't been for some time. The eight-year veteran hasn't cracked 40 tackles or recorded more than five sacks since 2009, and while Ratliff was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2011, that says more about what a joke the Pro Bowl has become than it does about Ratliff's prowess as a player.
Then there's the matter of the bloated contract that the Cowboys signed Ratliff to in 2011. That deal pays Ratliff an average of $7 million dollars in salary over the next five seasons, a ridiculous amount for a declining player on the wrong side of 30.
Finally, there's the matter of the incredibly poor judgment Ratliff showed in being arrested for DUI just one month after undergoing sports hernia surgery, especially in light of the November incident in which a car being driven by Dallas defensive tackle Josh Brent (who was allegedly impaired at the time) crashed, resulting in the death of wide receiver Jerry Brown.
There are plenty of other options out there for the Cowboys to explore. Players such as the Miami Dolphins' Randy Starks, Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears, Jason Jones of the Seattle Seahawks and Desmond Bryant of the Oakland Raiders are all set to hit free agency this year.
Every one of those players is younger than Jay Ratliff and has experience playing in the 4-3.
This is also a very deep draft class at defensive tackle, with as many as 10 players at the position earning first or second-round grades on some draft boards.
Not all those players will get drafted that early, which makes it a very real possibility that the team can find value at defensive tackle in April's NFL draft.
Listen, if we were talking about Jay Ratliff circa 2008, then it would be a different story, as that Jay Ratliff was a disruptive force that could have been an excellent fit as a "three technique" tackle. All soapboxing about morality and such aside, it's all about performance in the NFL.
However, we're talking about an overpaid player on the downslope of his career who ran his car into a truck less than three months after his backup killed a teammate while driving drunk.
It's time for Jay Ratliff to go, and he has no one to blame for that but himself.