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Cowboys Draft '10: Leaping into the Tackle and Safety Void

And thus the Flozell Adams Era ends, in a manner fitting his demeanor:  low key, and vendetta free.  I came to admire Flo's M.O. two years ago in Oxnard.  He didn't have much time for the press, but he was never a jerk about it.  You could approach him for a comment, but he would always just shake his head and slowly move on.  Five minutes later, you would see him in a players-only zone, laughing it up with a group of kids chosen to meet the team.

This tactic won't win you many allies among the reporter class, but it keeps your name out of the papers.  I'm surprised more players don't take Flo's approach.

Press ploys aside, Cowboys fans are about to find out what they've really lost.  Flozell took a lot of abuse during his time.  He entered the game with severe hearing loss in one ear, which made keeping the snap count hard, especially on the road.  Yet, every time the team had a chance go move beyond him, prior to today, it quickly extended him.  Bill Parcells made re-signing Adams a top priority when he took over the team.  Two years ago, Jerry Jones said he "didn't worry" with Flozell Adams at left tackle.

That's because Flo could play.  The team's best run stats the last decade have always come on plays run behind big number 76.  When Flo was on, as he was in '07, elite ends could not evade him.  When was the last time Trent Cole stood out in a Cowboys-Eagles game?  Osi Umenyiora?  Flo had the division's best ends locked up.  Dallas must feel confident Doug Free can match Flo's intra-divisional standard, but know that it's been awfully high.

We must also add thanks to Ken Hamlin, who bid adieu in a classy, if unconventional manner in today's tweet to the Cowboys faithful.  He dropped off last year, but let's not forget how poor Dallas' safety play was before Hamlin joined the team in '07.  The Cowboys had run through a pretenders lineup for much of the early '00s, searching in vain for somebody to take Darren Woodson's place.  The '06 secondary ranked 27th in touchdown passes allowed, and surrendered 14 TD passes, most of them bombs, in the month of December.  

With Hamlin at the back, the bombs stopped, and the '07 Cowboys secondary rose to 8th in TD scores allowed.  Hamlin, as much as Demarcus Ware, T.O. or Tony Romo, was responsible for lifting Dallas up from its 9-7 plateau. 

Dallas must feel that waiving Adams and Hamlin won't drop them back into the 9-7 maw.  These moves suggest several things to me:

  • On the labor side, the Cowboys brass must feel the cap-free era won't last indefinitely.  Adams and Hamlin had large contracts, with several years remaining on them.  Dallas avoids any accelerated cap hit in '10, because no cap exists.  But the Cowboys could have waited until '11 in an uncapped system--unless they have some belief that a new CBA could be in place by then.
  • An offensive tackle and a defensive back are each coming in the first three rounds.  Free may be ready to start but who's in the pipeline behind him and Marc Colombo?  Right now, Leonard Davis is your backup left tackle.  I seriously doubt this situation will stand.  Take a harder look at Vladimir Ducasse, because the need for a guy like him just rose.
  • Do the same for the long list of free safety and cornerback prospects in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.  Alan Ball is your starting free safety at this very minute, but Pat Watkins is his backup.  Again, will Wade Phillips and Jerry Jones stand pat on this arrangement, with such high expectations for 2010?
  • I see both of these players finding new teams and soon.  Free safeties are in high demand.  Left tackles even more-so.  Jones gives both of these players the greatest chance of getting good new jobs by releasing them before the draft.  Players in house see this and potential future free agents see this.  This lighter touch will keep Dallas on the wanted list in the future.

So long, gentlemen, and thanks.  It's a shame we never saw a Super Bowl together, but I hope we see each other in a playoff matchup real soon.

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