THE ALL-STAR CAST
- DEMARCUS WARE
The good news is with a probable allotted time span of 3 to 4 years to locate replacements or devise contingency plans for four elite players, the grand task is not insurmountable. An example of a contingency plan to compensate for losing a star player instead of direct replacement is with DeMarcus Ware. Dallas will not likely find another OLB with the complete package, hall of fame skillset offered by Ware anytime soon.
But what they can do is acquire and develop two dangerous OLB’s (starter on each side), who when combined will produce the same total number of sacks/pressures/hurries that DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer record together in 2012. Does it really matter what side the numbers are coming from as long as they occur? A sack is a sack, the play is over and the defense is in better position going forward.
- JAY RATLIFF
As much as I appreciate Jay Ratliff’s intense play and versatility, this is a position that is far less difficult to replace and can easily be accomplished in such a lengthy gap. Quality defensive linemen are not few and far between. The difference between a top-5 DT and the 12th best in the NFL is not enough to hamper a 3-4 defense significantly.
- JASON WITTEN
Jason Witten is a very unique receiving tight end who will be extremely hard to duplicate, yet the team can find a productive player to follow him or even tailor the offense more steadily towards RB’s and WR’s making the reliance on a top-flight tight end a little less mandatory. Many championship teams operate this way and were just fine with an above average receiving tight end. Look no further than the 2011 New York Giants and their two undrafted rookie free agent TE’s.
- TONY ROMO
That brings us to Tony Romo and the top spot, the field general position. Nobody looks forward to replacing an NFL signal caller who consistently ranks in the top 10 at his position. It’s far more difficult than any other position, which Cowboys ownership, coaches, scouts, and fans know all too well from the agonizing years between Troy Aikman and Tony Romo. Unfortunately, Tony Romo is the type of player many fans (and short memory spans) undervalue until they see how large the hole is when he’s gone.
The ray of sunlight is he is replaceable with appropriate foresight. Not waiting until a QB is coming apart at the seams to address the future is a must. With Stephen McGee’s contract (and Jerry Jones’ naïve, failed experiment) appropriately ending in 2013, the next draft is the right place to launch the process.
The team must reverse the recent past and acquire a new third QB who has a legitimate chance to be the main guy with patience and development. This is exactly how Dallas produced Tony Romo in the first place. Romo was signed in 2003 as an undrafted free agent. He began third string behind none other than Quincy Carter (another mindless, failed experiment courtesy of JJ) and Chad Hutchinson…ouch.
In 2004 Tony entered the offseason fourth on the depth chart behind Vinny Testaverde, Drew Henson, and Quincy Carter. If not for Quincy Carter’s release for substance abuse, Romo was facing being cut from the team altogether. Once again in 2005, another free agent signing trumped Romo when Drew Bledsoe took the reins.
It wasn’t until 2006 when he finally wrestled away the keys to drive the Cowboys stock car and never looked back. If not for patience, development, and Quincy Carter’s alleged affinity for nose candy, we may not even be discussing Romo’s impressive tenure in Dallas.
The lesson learned through his success, and in even greater triumphs like Aaron Rodgers supplanting the legendary Brett Favre in Green Bay, is simply that the process must begin before facing a life-or-death situation forcing it to. This method provides the safest transition with the highest probability for success. It may take three tries to find ‘The Guy’. At least now you have 3 to 4 years to complete the task.
All in all, the current window involving core players, which in years past made fans cringe with thoughts of its closure, is not as daunting of an obstacle these days. Beyond four elite players, the rest of the Cowboys core backbone can realistically excel at their peak level for the next five years (with erosion upon skills due to age being the only considered factor).