LB's Contract Extension a Win-Win

IRVING, TX. - When the Dallas Cowboys announced last week that they had signed linebacker Bradie James to a lucrative five-year contract extension, some expressed dismay at the numbers involved.

James, of course, felt a sense of relief and reassurance, and the Cowboys, according to head coach Bill Parcells, see the investment as money well spent.

James said that while he had begun to wonder about his future with the team prior to the extension, he didn't let the ramifications of his concern manifest themselves on the field.

"I didn't, per se, let it affect my play right now, in the first two games," he said. "But I would have worried about why it wasn't done."

Parcells shied away from questions about the financial terms of the deal (reportedly in the range of $20-21 million over five years), but said the decision to lock up James was a prudent one.

"I'm happy for Bradie, who I think has really become one of the team leaders," Parcells said. "The organization really felt like Bradie is a good, solid player and a solid citizen."

James said that the extension put to rest -- admittedly at a much higher financial range -- the uncertainty that people encounter in any profession when planning their future and job security.

"It's just like that in any job," he said. "It's like getting a promotion. You don't know you have it until you're told you have it."

While the salary is significant for a player of James' youth (James is 25) and at a position for which the Cowboys traditionally don't pay top dollar, Parcells said the resources committed to James over the next five years reflect the team's opinion that James' best years still are ahead of him.

"He's still got a lot of upside, and he's still in the developmental stage of his career," Parcells said. "He has the characteristics we look for at that (outside linebacker) position in this scheme. He's improved his coverage skills a lot -- based on the fact that he couldn't cover anyone when he got here -- and he's going to get better."

Parcells said that while the team recognized James' obvious physical attributes, his mental development further justified the team's decision to invest in a long-term deal.

"He did something in the preseason that really told me where he is in this world," Parcells said. "He made a play exactly the opposite of the way we coached it. I worked with him on a specific play last year. We went up to Seattle, and they ran one of these plays on him and it worked. When he came off the field, I just stared at him. In the preseason, he did the same thing, and when they came off the field, I'm just staring at him again. He looked at me and said 'same [explitive] as last year. I didn't have to say anything. He knows."

James talked about the satisfaction he gets from knowing his coach and the organization have enough faith in his ability to lock him up long-term. But he also pointed out that there's another benefit in the contract that people in everyday jobs don't often enjoy.

"The good thing about this job," he said, "is that you get rewarded well."

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