Jerry Jones, Wade Phillips and the rest of the crew out at Valley Ranch made a couple of bold moves today. Rumors had made the rounds about both players, Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin, but the timing of the announcement is somewhat stunning.
Football offseason strategy would dictate you make these moves after the draft as not to tip your hand on needs, and to make sure you find replacements in the draft. On the first count, this is most likely Jerry allowing Ken Hamlin and Flozell Adams ample time to catch on with new teams before those teams fill needs through the draft. Many things are said about Jerry Jones, but one thing is definitely true, he really does care about his players and forms emotional bonds with them. This was probably Jerry's way of saying I respect you, and your service to the organization, I'm not going to jerk you around. Without a doubt, Hamlin will find a taker relatively quickly. His age and production warrant a shot on another team. Adams' situation is a little more tricky because he's been in decline, and his age for a LT could be a hindrance. But he'll end up signing somewhere. As to the second count of doing this after the draft to make sure you filled your needs, I expect it's a case of the Cowboys already thinking they have replacements.
Make the jump...
At pick #27, it's doubtful the Cowboys would be relying on getting a sure-starter left tackle in the draft. It's unlikely that someone of that kind of quality falls to them. The only other strategy in the draft would be to trade up towards the top of the first round. Don't believe the hype when people say the Cowboys now have to draft a LT in the first-round. The Cowboys almost assuredly believe that Doug Free is their starting LT of the future. Free played well in place of Marc Colombo for a stretch of 2009. Dallas has been grooming him for years now, this is the year they find out for real. None of that precludes Dallas from grabbing a LT in the draft, but they're not forced to do it right away. They have their starter, so backup LT is just another position of need.
The safety situation is not quite as clear-cut, but probably runs along similar lines. Dallas must believe that Alan Ball or Mike Hamlin is going to be their guy, that one of those two guys can be an adequate starter. But, they have more options at finding another safety than they would looking for a LT. There are RFA's they could go after, they could work a trade, or they could get one in the draft. Safeties are a much more available commodity on the market than tackles. Also, the draft is full of safeties that could go in the late-first round or second round with the real potential to step in and start. The Cowboys have options here.
Hamlin's dismissal is a combination of money and production. Hamlin was serviceable, but the money wasn't matching the value of the player. Adams' dismissal was fear of a broken down LT. He's getting old, he was obviously slowing down, it was time to see if Doug Free is the player they think he is.
This does alter the Cowboys draft strategy. Obviously these positions are moved up the board in terms of need. It also would put pressure on finding another corner if Ball is going to be required to concentrate solely on safety. (Reference Raf here). But, it doesn't mean the Cowboys have to reach or make a bad trade just to get someone. They have options on the team at safety and left tackle.