Jones Spending at Record Pace

As a one of the 400 richest people in America and among the top 600 in the world, according to Forbes Magazine, with a net worth of more than $950 million, owner Jerry Jones found accusations of him a tight wad with the Cowboys last season a little bit amusing.<BR>

He says he has never been afraid to spend money or take risks, considering that's how he made his fortune in the first place.

Still Jones accepted with all seriousness the bottom line foundation of those accusations. Not only was last season's demoralizing 6-10 finish proof the Cowboys didn't do enough in the off season to improve from the 10-6 mark in 2003 but they took a huge step back in the process.

Jones has his reasons for not opening the checkbook last season but none of it mattered now.

As with year-to-year coach Bill Parcells not guaranteed to stay beyond this season, the future of the franchise was at a crossroads.

"We were sitting at the combine last Saturday and we were saying that the 2-3 days after the start of free agency might be the most significant in our time with the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said. "We had a resolve to execute our plan. It was well orchestrated."

The result: a now historic spending spree on the first two days of free agency that had the Cowboys giving away $28 million in signing bonuses and holding three press conference to introduce defensive tackles Jason Ferguson, cornerback Anthony Henry and guard Marco Rivera.

Add in the $2 million bonus given quarterback Drew Bledsoe two weeks ago and the Cowboys have given out $30 million in signing bonuses already.

Though the Cowboys aren't done, look for the spending and activity to slow down.

They still have needs at free safety, defensive end, linebacker, running back and offensive tackle. But they will address those needs with bargains in free agency and/or in the draft.

The Cowboys, however, will not target any more big-ticket items, unless it's a special player whose demands have been reduced.

One player who may still be in the fold is New Orleans Saints defensive end Darren Howard. The Cowboys are trying to trade for the veteran end, but as of Monday morning, the deal has yet to go through.

The Saints want at least a second round pick for Howard, and possibly a player from Dallas to help sweeten the deal. Orginally, LB Dat Nguyen was mentioned, but the Cowboys said this weekend that Nguyen will not be traded.

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