In this week’s addition of Who Should Stay/Who Should Go, I will be discussing Bradie James and whether the Cowboys should bring the veteran linebacker back next season. James was drafted by the Cowboys in the 4th round of the 2003 draft out of LSU. James’ first 2 years with the Cowboys were not anything spectacular; he had only a combined 58 tackles in those two seasons. However in 2005, when the Cowboys changed defensive schemes, James had his best season yet recording 93 tackles. Since that 2005 season, James has been a consistent play maker on the field recording over 100 tackles in each of the last 5 seasons.
With the emergence of Sean Lee this season, James and fellow free agent linebacker Keith Brooking split time on the field and James’s numbers and performance showed it. This season even though he played in all 16 games, he only recorded 44 tackles his 2nd lowest total since his rookie year. Even when James was on the field, he did not have that same fire that made him a force on the defense and a fan favorite. He just seemed to be missing the spark that had made him great for so many seasons and in a contract year is definitely something you want to have.
Now whether this season was just James having a bad season or even having trouble adjusting to Rob Ryan’s system, one thing is for sure the guy who lined up on defense all season was not the Bradie James we were used to seeing the past 6 seasons. The biggest problem for James is that he is not getting any younger and with Sean Lee proving he has what it takes to play in the league, James is going to have to give his usual big production in limited time if he returns to the Cowboys next season. In my mind this is a tough call, because other than DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James has been my favorite Cowboys player for many years, and it is sad to see just how far he fell last season.
However separating myself from my love of Bradie to what would actually benefit the Cowboys, I think the Cowboys need to let him test the waters and move in a younger direction. Who knows if Bradie will regain his previous form and that is a risk the Cowboys should not take. The defense was a huge weakness this season and the Cowboys need to look at adding youth and not guys who may be getting a little past their prime. Sadly for one of my favorite players I believe his time in Dallas is over and it makes me sad the way he went out.