In an effort to make the new site go live as quickly as possible, we glossed over the release of Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin . It is now time to more deeply explore the consequences of this decision.
Of course, the first question that comes to mind is ‘why?’ Why would Dallas, in an uncapped year, cut two veteran starters whose backups are questionable at best?
The biggest problem we have with this decision is the timing. With neither player set to receive a roster bonus before the draft, why not wait? The Cowboys may have put themselves in a rather difficult spot. They have shown their hand and, should they not have a backup plan, it may be awfully easy for teams to predict their draft day intentions.
Nonetheless, we have broken down below what we believe the organization may have been thinking.
Scenario No. 1
The first possible answer is that the Cowboys are supremely confident in this year’s draft class. Perhaps they are relying on selecting two game-changing rookies in the first two rounds, one at left tackle and the other at free safety.
The problem with that logic is the top-tier players at both positions have a ridiculously high chance of being taken by the 27th selection. Offensive tackles Russell Okung, Trent Williams , Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis, Bruce Campbell, and Charles Brown are all projected to be early-to-mid first-rounders. Meanwhile, the only safeties we consider ‘elite,’ Eric Berry and Earl Thomas , who figure to be long gone by the time Dallas is on the clock.
Further, not only the tackle and safety spots are affected by the release of Adams and Hamlin. Don’t forget that Alan Ball, a FS/CB, is more likely to take over at free safety. In fact, as of today Dallas’ starting free safety would be either Ball or second-year man Michael Hamlin. Not exactly Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu back there.
Ball’s probable departure from the dime cornerback position leaves the Cowboys with just three serviceable players at that position (albeit three very talented ones). As much as Dallas is now in search of impact players at left tackle and free safety, a first round selection of a play-making cornerback/returner is not out of the question (hello, Kyle Wilson).
Nonetheless, relying on the draft to supply starters at two extremely critical positions is a head-turning decision.
Scenario No. 2
The second possibility is that the Cowboys are simply more confident in both the offensive tackle and free safety positions than fans. The club is known to love Doug Free (we aren’t as head-over-heels for Free ), and Jerry Jones has stated that he could transition to left tackle.
However, that would leave second-year tackle Robert Brewster as the primary backup to both tackle spots. While the drop-off from Adams to Free may not be that great, Dallas better pray for no injures, as the decrease in proven talent and experience from Free to Brewster is enormous.
In many ways, the Cowboys’ situation at offensive tackle is much like that at running back. Free, like Tashard Choice, could probably start a lot of places. Let go of Choice, though, and you are left one injury away from having Marion Barber as the sole experienced RB.
With Adams gone, the same is true of Doug Free and Marc Colombo at tackle. Even a first-rounder lacks the necessary experience to make an immediate impact, meaning Free is probably better suited as an excellent swing tackle.
At free safety, Alan Ball played fairly well last season (although we still only gave him a ‘C+’ overall grade ). Perhaps the organization is more confident in Ball’s abilities than us, or maybe they truly see something special in Michael Hamlin. Either way, both current options are a downgrade, at least for now, from Ken Hamlin.
Scenario No. 3
The higher-ups within the Cowboys’ organization are not dumb. As much as this move may come to a shock to some of us, be confident in knowing that the team ultimately has a plan. There was undoubtedly a rhyme and a reason to this decision.
In an earlier post, we hinted that the Cowboys may have something up their sleeve. The more we think about it, the more that idea makes sense.
Thus, the third and final scenario involves the Cowboys making a big-time move in free agency either before or during the draft. In a previous Mailbag , we discussed the possibility of the team signing Ravens LT Jared Gaither. That path just became a whole lot more believable.
The Ravens placed a first round tender on Gaither, but there are rumors circulating that they may accept less for him. While the Cowboys’ 59th overall selection is probably too little, perhaps a package such as a second and a fourth-rounder might do the trick. That would leave the squad with their first round pick to grab a play-making free safety like USF’s Nate Allen .
There is also an outside chance that the Cowboys could sign Rams’ restricted free agent free safety O.J. Atogwe. Atogwe is the ball-hawk this team needs, snatching 15 picks in the last three years. He also can be signed without giving up a draft pick. Still, we would rate the likelihood of this happening as lower than the Gaither scenario.
Like “The Blonde Side” blogger Amber Leigh hinted at in her last post , we don’t always have to agree with what the Cowboys do, but we should always support them. As ambiguous as this move feels at the time, we can at least feel some relief in knowing that there was a motive behind it.
Consequently, we believe yet another breaking news story is just over the horizon. Whether it is the signing of Gaither or a big draft day trade, be prepared to hear in the near future that your Cowboys have made yet another big splash.