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You might have noticed this post has a sponsor. Those of you who were with us last year remember that Sprint did some sponsoring of BTB (as well as the other NFL SBN sites), and they liked us and you guys so much they came back for another round. What does this all mean? BTB will be doing a series of six posts over the next months about game changing moves made since the end of the season. Sprint has agreed to sponsor this series so you'll see their branding on the posts. That's it, nothing else to worry about, but since they believe their new 4G network and their new phone coming out is something NFL fans might be interested in, we'll help them pass the word. Thanks to Sprint for helping out BTB. Enough of the sales pitch now. These six posts will be about football and the Cowboys - so let's move on.
Move #1: The Cowboys release left tackle Flozell Adams
When we say game-changing moves, this certainly qualifies. The Cowboys decided to forgo the services of their long-time left tackle Flozell Adams, a man who had been a constant fixture in Dallas ever since he was drafted. Flozell was a living, breathing, Cowboys Rorschach test. Ask a dozen fans their opinion on Flo, and you'd get a dozen different perspectives. In general, though, it has to be said that the Cowboys were lucky to have Adams, left tackle is one of the most difficult positions to find in the NFL, and Dallas didn't have to worry about it for over a decade. When Flo was on his game, he was as good as anybody. Our own Raf has spent time documenting his ability to shut down NFC East defensive ends, and OCC has recently opined on the Cowboys running game when going Flo's way. With his immense size and strength, all he needed to do was get his hands firmly on you and it was game, set, and match.
But along with all that good came the frustrating side. 'False start Flo' needs no explanation to Cowboys fans. We were guaranteed to have that "Ahhh Crap!" moment once a game when we dumped five yards of field position thanks to our left tackle. There was also the notion that when Flo wasn't on his game, when he seemed disinterested or lackadaisical, he could be awful. There were games, or stretches of games, when you had to ask yourself what the heck was he doing out there. We'd seen him dominate on the field, then without warning he would turn in some really poor play. To top it off, Flo was not a media darling. He rarely talked to the press, so we rarely heard from him directly. He also was not the most fan-friendly guy at camps. All perfectly fine, but it lead Cowboys fans to view him at a distance.
Maybe that's as it should be. Because removing all else from the equation, the Cowboys were blessed with a left tackle worthy of a long career. So why release him? Fear of a broken-down left tackle. I remember watching Adams in camp before last season, and noticing that everything he was doing was much slower than before. If he hit the turf on a play, you could time the rise back to his feet with a sundial. Nagging injuries had plagued him recently, and you could see he was just one injury away from not playing anymore. It's a truism in sports, it's better to let a player go a year early, rather than a year late. The Cowboys appear to be following this maxim.
Doug Free is now the heir-apparent. Of course, the offseason isn't over yet, so conceivably anything could happen. But as I've argued previously, there's no way the Cowboys make this move, and make it when they did, without fully believing that Free is going to be the guy. You don't dump your starter, one with the pedigree of Adams, at one of the most important positions on the field, before the draft, unless you have total confidence in his replacement. It's worth mentioning that when Free filled in for Colombo last year, he played very well. We didn't really miss a beat. Now, right tackle is not left tackle, but you do face some great pass-rushing ends from the right side, and Free was up to the task.
The 2010 NFL draft is a deep draft according to most. The abundance of talent at key positions, including left tackle, have GM's drooling. Dallas could certainly dip into that pool. Once you get past Free and Colombo, our best option at tackle on either side is right guard Leonard Davis. I think most of us would prefer that Bigg stay right where he is in case of injury to a tackle. Dallas does have Robert Brewster in the fold, and no one has a good read on his NFL prospects yet. Sure there's speculation, but until he gets some time on the field, even in pre-season games, the Cowboys will be unsure of just how good he can be. I've also argued that the Cowboys don't need to reach for a left tackle in the draft. At pick #27, they can grab a guy they like if he's falls to them, but more than likely, it will be another position that will have players with the most value. Left tackle is a highly-valued commodity and the run on them early is likely to be strong. It's not like a new guy is going to be the starter anyway (barring one of the big dogs inexplicably dropping down to us, and even then he would have a battle to win with Free).
For better or worse, the Cowboys have thrown their lot in with Doug Free for 2010. I, for one, applaud the move. Free has had enough time to develop, it's time to fish or cut bait. To my untrained eyes, it looked like Flozell was at the end of a great career. He might last a couple more years, or he might just be done. And any major injury surely ends it for him. The Cowboys needed to get out from under that doubt.
Dallas certainly changed the game for 2010. Let's just hope it was in a positive direction.