We've seen this movie before. At least the beginning and the middle parts. It was the summer blockbuster of 1995, and back then, the good guys—or the bad guys, depending on your allegiances—managed to prevail in the end.
Having won consecutive Super Bowls in '93 and '94, the Dallas Cowboys fell short in '95. Usually a 12-4 record and an NFC Championship Game appearance wouldn't be considered a flop, but these were the '90s Cowboys. Aikman, Emmitt and Irvin. Larry Allen and Moose Johnston. Leon Lett and Charles Haley. Anything less than the best was a felony.
And so that offseason, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones set out to build another champion. And to do that, he needed to get Deion Sanders.
That year's reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and arguably the best cover cornerback ever in his prime at 28, Deion had other teams after him in free agency: Philadelphia, Oakland and Miami among them.
But the Cowboys got him. The courtship lasted into the regular season, but Jones made it happen, signing Sanders to a seven-year, $35 million deal (astronomical at the time; barely DeAngelo Hall money now). "Prime Time" resumed his business as the best corner in the league, and Dallas won another Super Bowl in his first year with the team.
Sixteen years later, Jerry Jones was back in that familiar place.
Nnamdi Asomugha was the 2011 Deion Sanders. He was the game-changer, and the Cowboys had the motive and opportunity to bring him into the fold—before Jones let the big fish slither off the hook.
His effort to outbid the rest of the league as he's done so many times before fell short, as Asomugha—the best cornerback in the NFL right now—signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles on Friday.
Is this a sign that Jones is slipping?
Back in '95, Deion Sanders wrote in his autobiography, other teams offered more money than Dallas. But Jones and the Cowboys won him over by promising to let him play offense, by appealing to his desire to win another Super Bowl, and by capitalizing on his friendship with Michael Irvin.
In 2011, Jones and the Cowboys couldn't sell Nnamdi Asomugha on the idea of coming to the team that probably made the most sense for him.
How did the owner who always seems to get what he wants swing and miss on the player who could have turned his team into legit championship contenders? How did the richest kid in school come back from Winter Break without the coolest Christmas present?
We do know there may have been crying involved. After the Asomugha-to-Philly deal was announced, Jones told radio station KRLD in Dallas, "We had an opportunity. We acted on it, and believe me, we firmly acted on it until our eyes watered."
But until Asomugha writes a book, we may never know the whole answer.
Could the Cowboys have hooked Asomugha—an aspiring actor who has already made guest appearances on Leverage, The Game and Friday Night Lights—on the fact that no other franchise in the NFL presents a bigger stage and more exposure than Dallas?
Could they have convinced him that Dallas has the talent to contend for a title—with QB Tony Romo, LB DeMarcus Ware, WR Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten, RB Felix Jones, WR Dez Bryant, NT Jay Ratliff, CB Mike Jenkins and C Andre Gurode—and that Asomugha was the missing piece?
Could they have appealed to his ego and sense of history, pitching the reality that if you're a superstar on the Cowboys, you'll join the discussion as maybe the greatest cornerback of all-time?
Of course, there's always the possibility that Jerry Jones did everything he could. That he can still sell dirt to a worm, that his co-salesmen on this deal (including son Stephen Jones and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan) were also on top of their game and that Asomugha simply felt better about the Philadelphia situation.
Maybe all that mattered to Asomugha is that the Eagles made the playoffs last season and the Cowboys were 6-10. Or maybe all that mattered is that the Eagles offered more money than the Cowboys wanted to spend.
But I still can't shake the feeling that, back in the day, Jerry Jones wouldn't have let this happen.