Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

March 15, 2013

Morgan: If the Pope can step down, why can’t Jerry?

By Ron Morgan
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — I keep driving up and down I-30 watching Jerry Land looking for white smoke. So far there is nothing. I guess that means that they haven’t elected a new GM for the Cowboys yet, huh?

I mean, if a pope can step down, why can’t Jerry? If you look back over the past couple of decades, there is one common thread running through mediocre season after mediocre season, and that’s Jerry.

Let’s take last season as an example.

This time last season, Jerry was opening up the checkbook signing a record eight free agents. On the surface that looks good. It shows that Jerry is willing to do whatever it takes to put a team on the field.  What did eight free agents bring them? It got them an 8-8 season, or what we have come to expect, mediocrity.

Do you remember all eight free agents? They overpaid for two mediocre offensive linemen. They signed a safety who showed up out of shape, and who was back on the street early in training camp. They signed an inside linebacker who managed eight starts only because Bruce Carter and Sean Lee both got hurt (and said linebacker has now been released). They picked up a fullback who wasn’t as good a blocker as the guy they released before him. They did sign a veteran backup quarterback who got 11 snaps in a mop-up loss to the Bears.  And, yes, they did get a pretty good cornerback.

If we dig down just a tad, we find that Jerry had to sign so many free agents because the Cowboys had drafted so poorly for so long. Free agents aren’t free. In fact, building through free agency is the most expensive way to build. On top of that, signing free agents is taking on someone whose original team didn’t see the value in paying the price to keep them.

At the moment, Jerry is paying a pretty steep price for his free agent binges that resulted from poor drafts. He and Stephen are scrambling to restructure contracts to stay under the salary cap. They are below, but just barely.

They still need to free up another $7 to $8 million just to sign next month’s draftees. Think they might just have to get by this season? Think again. Next year will be worse, cap-wise.

Another problem that Jerry has is that he falls in love with what he has.  Doug Free had a decent stretch playing left tackle about three years ago. Jerry jumped up and signed him to a long-term deal, where Free is now the highest paid flop in football.

Or, how about Orlando Scandrick?  Scandrick was a pretty good pick for a fourth rounder, but he was still a fourth-round pick.

In fact, his first season he was considered a better cornerback than first-round pick Mike Jenkins. Jerry signed him to a big long-term contract. Now he has Orlando as the highest paid slot corner in the NFL.

Other teams recognize when a star player starts to deteriorate and cut ties or trade them while they have value. Jerry hangs on to them to the point to where they have no value.

Take, for example, Jay Ratliff. Ratliff is now an aging injury plagued undersized defensive tackle. Ratliff was arrested for a DUI not long after teammate Josh Brent was charged with man slaughter for killing a teammate in a drunken crash. However, if they cut Jay, he will cost as much against the cap as he will if they keep him.

I love Demarcus Ware, and Jerry will keep him until he can’t play anymore. What kind of draft picks could Jerry get for Demarcus? He has already slowed down from his peak years. The Patriots would pull the trigger and get value for a declining player. It’s a shame Jerry can’t look at successful teams for a plan. What is it they say about teaching an old dog new tricks?

So, just in case I’m looking for white smoke over the Jones Dome. How would St. Francis of Arkansas sound to you?

Yeah, that would take a miracle.