Unhappy veterans, aging veterans and expensive veterans; what to do, what to do? Damned if you do, damned if you don't, at some point you have to make a choice. The moment of truth arrives on March 1st when roster bonuses are due. Unless you believe you can trade a player you need to make the cuts by that day. The Cowboys have three cases to examine, Greg Ellis, Larry Allen and La'Roi Glover. Nobody envies their choices.
$500,000 roster bonus March 1st
$3.35 million salary cap charge 2006
$2.4 million cap charge if released
The case for: Greg Ellis is still a productive player for the Dallas Cowboys. Ellis just came off an 8 sack season that tied for the best on the team, which is a regular occurrence over the last 4 years, and he did it with reduced playing time. He's been a model citizen in Dallas with a great work ethic. Consistent in his play and consistent in his behavior, Ellis represents the qualities you want in a player. He's signed for 3 more years and his contract is very reasonable. If you cut him, you only save $1 million dollars this year.
The case against: Ellis is a defensive end who is comfortable in 4-3 defense but his size and abilities are hindrances in the 3-4 scheme. A 3-4 end needs to stand up blockers and control a patch of ground, allowing the linebackers to fill. Ellis thrives in getting up field or using his agility to get down the line. Now that he's no longer starting he's also unhappy with his dwindling role. As he said himself, "When you're playing 15 or 20 plays a game, then I would probably say you're not the piece they're looking for."
Verdict: Dallas will pay the $500,000 bonus then do everything they can to trade him for a player or picks.
$2 million roster bonus March 1st
$7.55 million salary cap charge 2006
$4.1 million cap charge if released
The case for: Larry Allen is going to his 10th Pro Bowl and was the Cowboys best offensive lineman this year. No one argues that Allen is the player he was even 4 years ago, but he's still a good to "very" good guard, the "very" varies from week to week. But the real case for Allen remaining a Cowboy is answered by the question: "Who else you got?" We have to fix the right tackle spot, and the next consideration would be the center spot, so who wants to replace 3 linemen in the offseason?
The case against: He's old and getting older, and in football age he's rapidly hitting the time when the skills of a player plummet. Even if the Cowboys bring him back there's no guarantee this won't be the year that he becomes a liability instead of reliable. Allen's relationship with Coach Parcells has never been smooth; imagine if Allen can't produce next year where it would go. Oh yeah, he also costs a lot of money
Verdict: The Cowboys ask Allen to re-work his contract, he will, and the Cowboys hold onto him.
$1.5 million roster bonus March 1st
$7.3 million salary cap charge 2006
$1.2 million cap charge if released
The case for: La'Roi Glover is still a stud and given a chance to play will produce. He suffers from the same fate as Greg Ellis; he doesn't fit the 3-4 defense. But there's no doubt he would be a quality back-up nose tackle that could help in a limited role. The nickel and the occasional switch to the 4-3 make him the ideal candidate. He's like Ellis in another respect, he's a model citizen.
The case against: While Glover hasn't said anything publicly and probably won't, the fact that he knows he could start in a 4-3 scheme would start to gnaw at his pride. Guys who know they should be getting playing time but aren't can become unmotivated in a hurry. The Cowboys would also save a lot of money, and I mean a lot of money, if they released Glover. His salary cap number doesn't equal his playing time.
Verdict: Glover becomes a cap casualty before March 1st.