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February 26, 2010

Just CHILL: Progress stoppers take heed as roster decisions looming

Mymug[1]
Clarence Hill 

Because of the uncapped year, the Cowboys are not pressed to save any money by releasing players with big money contracts. But that doesn't mean the Cowboys aren't considering making a few roster moves with some veterans that could result in some savings.
 
Vice president Stephen Jones wouldn't discuss any names but he acknowledged the Cowboys are going over every player on the roster and discussing where they need to make moves.
 
According to Jones, it will be similar to the decisions the team ultimately made last year when they got rid of receiver Terrell Owens and linebacker Greg Ellis to allow younger players more playing time to reach their full potential. It's a safe assumption that receiver Miles Austin and linebacker Anthony Spencer don't have the breakout seasons they had in 2009 if Owens and Ellis were still in Dallas.

"I think it could ultimately happen,'' Jones said. "It hasn't been decided, but it could ultimately fall that way. "I think we've got a lot of young players, if given the opportunity, would probably play better than most people think.''

Two guys that could find themselves in the thick of the discussions are tackle Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin.

Adams has been a mainstay at left tackle for more than a decade. But he's also past his prime.

The Cowboys liked what they saw from Doug Free during his time as an injury replacement for Marc Colombo last season and they like his potential. The question is whether they are ready to trust him to protect Tony Romo's blind side.
 
“When you give guys an opportunity to play, a lot of times they end up playing pretty good," Jones said. "When you don’t see them play, then that’s difficult, not the 100 percent confidence they will step up and do it.  Now I will say this, there are people in the organization, some are a little more leery of a player, some are a little more bullish on a player. Sometimes, when you run a business, you have to say hey, we’re going to take that chance. We’re going to give this guy a shot. Just like Spencer. He played enough, you could see the things you wanted to see.’’

The decision with Hamlin is trickier because there is no clear cut player for the future waiting in the wings. Alan Ball didn't embarrass himself while replacing an injured Hamlin for a couple of games this season. But he is a a converted corner and not considered a long term answer at the position.

What's also true is that the Cowboys aren't completely with what they've gotten from Hamlin since he signed a lucrative contract two years ago. He is the quarterback of the secondary and is valued for his ability to line everybody up back there.

 But the Cowboys are record as saying the need more plays from the safety position. Hamlin has made few impact plays over the past two seasons.

If the Cowboys target a safety in the first two rounds of the draft -- Texas ballhawking safety Earl Thomas could be available -- then it could help them crystallize their decision.

"If you got a guy who you think has a better chance to help you win after you draft a guy then it obviously can affect your decision," Jones said. "And you might make moves with a current guys on your roster, whether it's a trade or a release."

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