One Man’s Trash: A Brief Look Back at Free Agents Lost


By: Joe D.

Losing Jimmy Smith in the 90′s to the Jacksonville Jaguars still haunts me.  Smith was a 2nd round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and had two injury plagued years while with the Cowboys.  In 1992 he suffered a broken leg.  In 1993 he underwent a near fatal emergency appendectomy. Jerry Jones had not morphed into a modern day version of Rich Uncle Pennybags giving huge contracts to players who have yet to earn it a la Roy Williams.  Jones did not wish to pay Smith for the 1993 season as the injury was not football related.  Skip to 1996 when Smith became one of the best WR’s in the game accumulating 862 receptions and over 12,000 yards in his career.

The question is raised, “Have we lost any great players in the past 3 years that we will later regret?”  Here’s a brief look back (though players who should have never been a Cowboy will not be considered).

2009

Terrell Owens:  There is a reason he is still unsigned this late into free agency in 2010.  The Cowboys find themselves flushed with WR talent especially with the emergence of both Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree.  While Owens may be productive in other settings, his services are not missed in Dallas.

Nick Folk:  For a two year stretch, Folk was the most clutch kicker the Cowboys had in recent memory.  Unfortunately, he developed a case of the yips and was released after inconsistent play in 2009.  Initially replaced by Shawn Suisham, it is likely that David Beuhler will man the position in 2010.  Beuhler is an unknown in regards game situations.  He certainly has the leg strength, but his reported accuracy in practice is still in question.  As for Folk, he has since signed with the NY Jets; unfortunately, initial reports are not positive.

Chris Canty:  Canty was injured for much of 2009, recording 1/2 sack and 13 tackles in 8 games.  Canty’s replacement, Igor Olshansky, was more productive, healthier, and a substantially cheaper option.  It is too early to declare a winner, but for the 2009 season, Canty was not missed.

Greg Ellis:  Despite a rough start to Anthony Spencer‘s 2009 season, he became a worthy player to rush on the opposite side of DeMarcus Ware.  Spencer logged 6 sacks in the final six games of the season.  Prior to this point, he applied a substantial amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, played well in coverage, and was solid against the run.  While Ellis had a long tenure with the Cowboys, his constant bickering about his contract status had the fan base believe he was a malcontent.  Ellis can still be a productive player, but with the emergence of Spencer, he won’t be missed in Dallas.

Tank Johnson:  Johnson’s transgressions in Chicago were related to firearms.  The culture in Texas embraces firearms as part of the state character.  Johnson was lumped together with Terrell Owens and Adam Jones as the questionable character players on the team.  This seems unfair.  Johnson should be lumped together with backup players who did not have an effect on the game.  He was well known due to this transgressions, but was a marginal player with the Cowboys.  He has since signed and started 13 games for the Bengals.  He had an average year and with the continuing performance and health of the defensive line, was not missed.

Kevin Burnett:  Initially Burnett was replaced by Bobby Carpenter as the nickel linebacker.  Surprisingly, Carpenter played as well as Burnett.  In 2010 Sean Lee (2nd round pick in 2010) or Jason Williams (3rd round pick in 2009).  While it has yet to be proven whether Lee or Williams can effectively handle the nickel LB role, it is certain that Jerry Jones would not have matched the Chargers salary offer to Burnett to play a non-starting role.  Next season, we may be longing for the good old days when Carpenter was covering tight ends.  I don’t foresee it happening, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Zach Thomas:  Thomas was signed by the KC Chiefs and cut prior to the start of the regular season.  He was replaced by Keith Brooking who brought  a fire and passion to the defensive side of the ball in 2009.  It was this fire and passion that was assumed Thomas would bring in 2008.  Unfortunately, there was a void of leadership and more specifically, a void of impressive plays at the weakside linebacker position.  With Lee and Williams on the roster, the long-term answer at linebacker is not in question.  The only fans who lament Thomas’s release are those who purchased $100 jerseys.

Adam Jones:  Jones did not play in 2009 and was only recently signed by the Cincinnati Bengals.  With the emergence of Mike Jenkins and the solid play of nickel CB Orlando Scandrick, Jones has not been missed.  Considering the lack of common sense displayed by Jones, even if his performance was outstanding in Cincinnati, he would not be missed by most, if not all Cowboys fans.

Roy L. Williams:  Ironically, the safety positions haven’t been solidified since Williams and Darren Woodson roamed the field.  Last year Gerald Sensabaugh replaced Williams effectively; however, Ken Hamlin had his second mediocre season.  The safety position is in flux and Alan Ball is slated to play in the defensive backfield.  Williams isn’t missed per say (nor his missed tackles, his horse collar 15 yard penalties, lack of coverage skills, etc.), but productivity from the position is.  Williams has been injury plagued for the past two years, but it is believed that his passion for football has slowly seeped out of him like helium from a balloon.

2008

Julius Jones:  Jones is an enigma.  He showed flashes of greatness that were on par with some of the moves displayed by Barry Sanders.  It was presumed that Bill Parcells broke Jones (like a wild horse) into running straight into the hole to gain a few yards with the hopes that once into the second level Jones would again flash greatness.  Unfortunately, it appears that Parcells broke Jones’s (like a vase) ability to make a cut and improvise.  Jones hasn’t been missed as Felix Jones and Tashard Choice have more than effectively replaced his production and speed.  If anything, the Cowboys sincerely miss the Marion Barber of the 2007 season.  That Barber has been missing in action (though injury provides some explanation).  Jones was signed by the Seahawks and has averaged approximately 4 yards per carry.  However, considering that 62 yards came in one run in 2009, Jones production has been closer to 3.4 yards per carry in 2009.  Once considered a building block for the Cowboys organization, Jones begs the question, “What happened?”

Terry Glenn:  Glenn has yet to play again after his release by the Cowboys.  The biggest effect from the loss/release of Glenn is the fact that a void was opened for the #2 WR.  That void was unfortunately not filled by Patrick Crayton, but rather Roy Williams.  So if you were looking for a reason to resent Glenn, this is as good as any other.

Jacques Reeves:  Reeves most closely resembles the Jimmy Smith situation.  Reeves played at a high level once he left Dallas.  In 21 starts with the Texans, he has played at a surprisingly high level.  He suffered a broken leg in 2009 which limited his opportunities.  Cowboys fans will remember Reeves getting beat, getting called for a costly facemask penalty in the playoff game against the Giants, and simply being a stop gap player.  Kudos to Reeves for continuing to improve.

2007

Al Johnson:  Johnson was drafted in the 2nd round and was believed to have the fight and fire that Parcells was looking when re-constructing the Cowboys offensive line.  To Johnson’s credit, he did push Gurode as both competed for playing time.  Johnson didn’t play in 2909 and hasn’t started for a team since 2007.  Despite Johnson’s actual time on the field, he is simply another example of the Cowboys recent ineptitude in drafting quality offensive linemen.

Kenny Rogers said it best, “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…”  Jerry Jones has justifiably drawn the ire of Cowboys fans in the past for questionable personnel moves.  As indicated in the above, Jones seems to have righted the ship and is owed a well deserved tip of the hat, the Landry Hat that is.

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Tags: Adam Jones Al Johnson Barry Sanders Bobby Carpenter Chris Canty Dallas Cowboys Darren Woodson David Beuhler DeMarcus Ware Felix Jones Greg Ellis Igor Olshansky Jacques Reeves Jason Williams Jerry Jones Jimmy Smith Ken Hamlin Kevin Burnett Kevin Ogletree Miles Austin Nick Folk Ny Jets Roy Williams Sean Lee Shawn Suisham Tank Johnson Tashard Choice Terrell Owens Terry Glenn Zach Thomas

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