With everything that has been going on the past week, since free agency started, the picture in Dallas not only has changed, but has a whole new color scheme. The releases of Terrell Owens and SS Roy Williams drastically change both the offense and defense, and while one of those positions has been taken care of, for the most part, the safety position still needs help.
Since we last saw Darren Woodson and Roy Williams both back at safety, this team has struggled for consistency at the position, one that requires a fair bit of solid play, great athleticism, and quick thinking.
The release of Owens, merely a year after paying him almost a $13 million signing bonus on a new four year deal, without having seen any solid production from his replacement is a gamble. Albeit one that has been taken already, many fans are concerned about WR Roy Williams and the fact that despite joining the team in week 6 of the 2008 season, he failed to live up to even the number 2 position on the team after Dallas traded multiple picks for him, one of which being a first rounder, and resigned him to a lucrative deal.
But many people seem to forget one thing … you can find transactions in the NFL where a player warrants a first round pick in a trade without deserving a value that high, but it’s hard to say that when a first, third, and seventh round pick were all traded for one guy. Some may point to the near-infamous trade for Joey Galloway a while back, but that situation was different from the one Dallas and Williams are in.
Williams is younger, been stuck on a team that has now posted the worst season record ever, and he still managed to have 1,000+ yard seasons there. To make that deal even sweeter, we now have the quarterback on staff that helped Williams to stand out from the pack a couple of years ago. Sure, Kitna won’t play a down, unless Romo is either injured or plays so badly that he’s benched, but there’s a lot that goes into the relationship on the field for a quarterback and his receiver.
Take it from Kurt Warner who said that he had to re-learn what open meant when he arrived in Arizona and saw Fitzgerald play. Imagine that, a veteran quarterback that led the Greatest Show on Turf to a Super Bowl not so long ago saying that he had to learn what it meant for his number 1 receiver to be open. It comes down to trust, also to experience and to practice, but most of all it means trusting your receiver to take care of business if you get it to him.
Last year, Williams and Romo didn’t get a chance to build that trust. Either Romo was hurt and out or playing with that split on his hand, or Owens was making a stink about getting the ball more and his perceived notion that Romo and Witten were hooking up intentionally whenever possible. Whether that was true or not, the distraction it caused leaked onto the field during games, and it hampered the progress of Williams.
Now you might say that with Owens gone you won’t have those problems anymore and that that should help, but it goes much deeper than that. You lose some major distractions with Owens gone, but you also make Williams the top guy, a guy who ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds at the 2004 combine. A big, physical receiver that knows how to win the jump ball and has always been a smart route runner. Any of this sound familiar?
He had the number 2 spot in Detroit, but not because he wasn’t good enough to be number 1, but because that spot was already filled. He came to Dallas and found the same situation, until now. Now he’s the guy that will be on the field every single offensive down, he’ll get the practice reps, he’ll be the guy Garrett designs the passing game around; he’ll be the guy Romo will throw to aside from Witten, he’s the new deep guy.
He won’t draw double coverage, not at first, but if he can prove that he deserves it just for a couple of games, then he’ll get it and free up everything else like Owens did. Then it’ll be Jason Garrett’s job to make the most of that situation, the defense sacrificing balance to put an extra guy on him. But they’ll be doing that anyway because Witten still deserves the double-cover now. If Felix Jones is on the field, linebackers will be keeping a close eye on him just for being there.
It’s just going to take time for Williams and Romo to get in sync with each other, and time is what we have right now with the off-season conditioning program scheduled to start in about three weeks.
Things have changed in Dallas; Marion Barber giving two interviews in one day should show that much. On paper it may look like we’ve taken away talent, but really we’ve just allowed the talent that’s there to step up. We’ve taken away that constant nagging of the media, the constant speculation that the Dallas locker room is in shambles. That’s a remarkable feat in itself, but we do have the talent, and barring any further injuries we’ve got a roster full of it and with a year of experience for most of these guys.
Things have changed in Dallas, and it’s going to be some time for the direction of that change to be fully realized. It’s a process that I can’t wait to see.