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Cowboys handling of Allen Hurns’ release shows that the business side of football takes precedence

Being a high character guy wasn’t enough to keep the veteran receiver on the roster.

Tennessee Titans v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

When the Dallas Cowboys signed Allen Hurns to a two-year, $12 million deal last offseason, it felt like the team was getting a great bargain. After all, it doesn’t seem that long ago when he was coming off a 1,000+ yard, 10 touchdown season, swaying the Jacksonville Jaguars to sign him to a four-year, $40 million deal. We all knew what he was capable of and we were excited about it.

But after a season where he had a career low in both receptions (20) and yards (295), suddenly that deal didn’t appear so favorable. Nobody pegged Hurns for a game-changing receiver when he was brought to Dallas, but when he was healthy, he was a very reliable target. Prior to signing with Dallas, Hurns was coming off two straight seasons where he missed at least five games. He never reached 500 yards in each of those seasons. Maybe if he could just stay healthy he could resurrect some of that 2015 magic and be a serious weapon for Dak Prescott and this offense?

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Strangely, it wasn’t his health that held him back. Hurns played in all 16 games, but unfortunately had a career low in receptions (20) and yards (295). It wasn’t a good year for the veteran receiver.

Hurns was just one piece to the puzzle that was the Cowboys new receiving corp a year ago. After the loss of Dez Bryant, Brice Butler, Ryan Switzer, and for all intent and purposes - Terrance Williams, the Cowboys had a new cast of receivers. New faces included Hurns, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, rookie Michael Gallup, and then eventually Amari Cooper who was traded from Oakland midseason.

While there were no real threats to push him off the depth chart, Hurns suffered a big reduction in playing time once Cooper arrived. He went from averaging 43 snaps per game to just 17 per game after the trade. And things certainly weren’t looking any better for him this season as the Cowboys wide receiver position group is sitting in much better shape. The team has Cooper and Gallup, who now have a lot more reps with Prescott under their belt. They also signed Randall Cobb in free agency. And with players like Tavon Austin, Noah Brown, Cedrick Wilson, and a slew of young undrafted guys vying for a spot on the team - it was hard to imagine the team keeping Hurns around. It’s not that Hurns was a bad player or not worthy of a final roster spot to round out the WR depth chart, but considering his cost, he just wasn’t worth the investment.

The Cowboys front office was prepared for this situation. They structured his contract in a way to give them an easy out this season. He was scheduled to be a $6.25 million cap hit this year, but his release means the team is only on the hook for his $1.25 dead money hit, saving the team $5 million in cap space. Clearly, what Hurns could give the team this year isn’t worth $5 M, right?

Well, the Cowboys weren’t so sure. They exercised his 2019 option in March and it kept many of us wondering what the team was up to with Hurns. Back in January, we predicted he would be released, but the closer we got to camp, the less likely that seemed.

On Tuesday, the Cowboys finally cut ties with him. But why did they wait so long? That’s a question Hurns wonders himself.

You can’t blame Hurns for being disappointed. An earlier release would allow him more time to find a new home, make more money than he’ll likely get now, and more of chance to get familiar with his new offense. That would’ve been the nice thing for the Cowboys to do.

But the Cowboys waited. With camp set to begin later in the week, the Cowboys just now asked him to take a pay cut.

Maybe the team felt the market was dry enough that their offer was now reasonable to get him to agree. They love the type of person he is, the way he prepares, and he seemed firmly entrenched into the brotherhood that is this Cowboys offense. He’s definitely a good fit from a behavior perspective.

While high character certainly helps a player’s case, the Cowboys continue to show that the game of football is a meritocracy. As much as it we’d love to have a guy like Hurns on the team, keeping him at that cost was just not good business.

And as we all know, the Cowboys have bigger plans for their money.

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