Jerry's Stuffing Ballot Box On O-Line

IRVING, Texas -- It was 1990, and as the freshly-minted owner of the Cowboys, Jerry Jones felt obliged to be involved in Texas state politics. So, I learned one day, he'd donated money to the gubernatorial campaign to Democrat Ann Richards.

I expressed some mild surprise. … until he informed me that he'd donated the exact same amount to the campaign of Ann's opponent, Clayton Williams.

This is what Jerry means by "covering his bases,'' and it's a guideline that serves him well in the hallowed halls of power – and hopefully, in the grungy trenches of football.

Consider what the Cowboys have done in attempting to build an offensive line that hasn't been truly dominant since the late Gov. Richards was in office. On the one hand, he's thrown money at the problem: This spring, Leonard Davis comes here for a $16 mil signing bonus, Andre Gurode stays here for a $10 mil signing bonus, Marc Colombo does the same for a $4 mil bonus. In two previous offseasons, Jones threw an $8 mil bonus at Marco Rivera and a $5 mil bonus at Kyle Kosier.

Jones "voted'' to put his money on those five guys, plus Flozell Adams (a $10 mil bonus in '03) ought to be enough. Six guys. Five positions. In a perfect world, what more do you need?

"We think to make the commitments we have made in the offensive line represents smart business,'' Jones says.

No argument. But at the same time, Jerry is casting another "vote.''

So James Marten getting ready to steamroll somebody at Valley Ranch, beginning the long march to justifying the Cowboys' decision to draft the Boston College product in the recent Draft's third round. Same with Doug Free from Northern Illinois, a fourth-rounder. Last year's seventh-rounder, Pat McQuistan, is clearly a favorite of Jones'. Youngsters Cory Procter and Joe Berger are in the mix.

Two votes. One for big-money veterans. The other for kid prospects.

One – or both – have to work out, right? Well, not necessarily. Left tackle Adams played with some inspiration under departed coach Bill Parcells. His level of motivation will be worth watching. Rivera's back problems put his career in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, collecting prized rookies comes with no guarantees. Otherwise, the 2004 Draft that produced first-day O-line choices Jacob Rogers and Stephen Peterman wouldn't be regarded as such a punchline. And the disastrous 1995 Draft that featured O-linemen Kendall Watkins and Shane Hannah wouldn't be such a painful memory.

Imagine how different Dallas' offensive line play would've been for the last decade had those four guys been able to play a lick!

"It just takes time on offensive linemen,'' says Jones, who knows it also helps to have multiple votes.

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