Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dough boys Soft play from team's best-paid players won't cut it this fall


Never has Roy Williams worked this hard to maximize his immense talent.

That's a shame.
Better late than never, though, as mama used to say. Finally, he's taking action to be the best after the most embarrassing season of his Football life.

He's shedding pounds and exerting himself. He wants to prove to all the doubters - I'm one - that he can be among the NFL's best receivers.

Good for him.

Nothing should make Jerry Jones happier, especially since he signed Williams to a six-year, $45 million deal shortly after acquiring him for a king's ransom from Detroit last October.

Return on investment: 19 catches, one touchdown and no impact.

Williams was hardly the only Cowboys player with a high salary-cap figure who performed at a sub-par level.

You don't win in today's NFL if your best players don't play to their salaries. It's that simple.

Safety Roy Williams, Terrell Owens, Anthony Henry, Leonard Davis and Tony Romo had the five highest salary-cap figures on the team last season. Only Davis consistently played to the standard he has established for himself.

Just so you know, that's the best way to judge players.

Did Romo have a terrific season statistically? Sure. Did he play to the standard he established for himself based on his first two seasons as a starter? Nope.

Did T.O. have a solid year statistically? Yes. Did he play to his standard? Absolutely not.

The players still on the roster with the highest salary-cap figures are Ken Hamlin ($5.8 million) , Williams ($5.6), Jason Witten ($4.7), Romo ($4.5) and Bradie James ($4.2). All but James have played in at least one Pro Bowl - and James should have made it last year.

If each plays well this season, then Dallas will end its wretched streak of 12 consecutive seasons without a playoff win. If they don't play well, the streak will continue.

Hamlin must return to being the playmaker he was in his first season with the Cowboys , when he intercepted five passes and regularly delivered big hits. Last season, there were too many games when he wasn't a difference-maker.

We know what Witten and James will do.

Witten will be one of the toughest players on the field and a guy who delivers clutch catches. You win with guys like Witten.

James, who gets better every year, should go to the Pro Bowl this year. Yes, it's a popularity contest, but that normally doesn't get you in the game until you've been in the league for a while and your reputation has exceeded your production.

James, a relentless worker, is still getting better. He's made himself a three-down player in an era when most 245-pound linebackers head to the sideline on third down.

If we're honest, though, this season will hinge on Williams and Romo.

In five seasons, Williams has had one 1,000-yard season. He's never scored 10 touchdowns in a season.

The man he's replacing - like him or not - has caught more touchdowns passes than any other receiver except Jerry Rice.

Let that marinate.

T.O. scored 38 touchdowns in three seasons in Dallas. Williams must replace a significant chunk of that production.

Trust me, he knows.

That's why he wore a weighted vest at times during last week's OTAs. That's why he's been running routes and catching passes from Romo since March. Williams understands this is the biggest season of his career.

Romo can empathize. He's in the same situation.

T.O. is gone. It's Romo's team. Jerry and Stephen Jones have turned it over to him. He has plenty of weapons and a good relationship with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

There are no more excuses.

It's time for him and the rest of the highest-paid players on this team to get the job done.

Highest paid in '08

The Cowboys with the highest cap figures in 2008:

Player Pos. Salary cap

Roy L. Williams S $6.6 million

Terrell Owens WR $5.7 million

Anthony Henry CB $5.6 million

Leonard Davis OL $5.1 million

Tony Romo QB $4.5 million

Money players

The Cowboys with the highest salary cap figures for 2009, with Jean-Jacques Taylor's comments:

$5.8 million

S Ken Hamlin

Not nearly enough big plays.

$5.6 million

WR Roy Williams

19 catches and one TD in Dallas last season.

$4.7 million

TE Jason Witten

Among the best in the game, but only one TD last season.

$4.5 million

QB Tony Romo

Great stats, but 1-3 in December.

$4.2 million

LB Bradie James

Another year like 2008 and he'll be in Pro Bowl.

$4.1 million

OL Leonard Davis

Named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl last season.

$4.0 million

C Andre Gurode

Has quietly become one of the top centers in the league.

$3.9 million

CB Terence Newman

Is he injury prone or cursed with bad luck?

$3.6 million

OL Kyle Kosier

Broken foot ruined 2008 season.

$3.0 million

OL Flozell Adams

12 penalties and 7.5 sacks allowed last season.