Cowboys Hopeful with Hamlin

The Cowboys have had a revolving door at free safety since Darren Woodson retired.

The lack of stability has forced Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams to play out of position, out of his comfort zone and ultimately get exposed as a poor pass defender and inadequate quarterback for the secondary.

The Cowboys are betting that free agent Ken Hamlin will fill the void.

He signed only a one-year deal, worth $2.5 million, but the Cowboys are hoping that it will be a long-term arrangement.

"I've got the thought right now," Jones said. "We've got a one-year contract with him. But it's certainly implied if everything works the way we want it to, we're going to have a long-term deal together."

Hamlin is hoping for the same but he plans do his talking on the football field.

"You try not to think about it," Hamlin said. "I don't really see myself preparing for the season any different. You just want to go out there and play your game. If you do that, all the contract stuff should work itself out."

The Cowboys are confident enough in Hamlin that they didn't address the safety position in the draft. Four safeties were drafted in the first round but the Cowboys traded out and then traded back to take edge rusher Anthony Spencer.

"What he does for us, to fill a need we didn't have (filled), that was going to be hard to get in the draft," Jones said. "It's hard for a rookie, no matter how high you took him, to come in here and set the defense and be your quarterback on defense. To count on that happening was really asking a lot. And having (Hamlin) really took the pressure off of us because this was a good draft for safeties and a good draft for free safeties."

For the record, Pat Watkins and Keith Davis are also competing for the starting job at free safety.

Both players split time at the position last year, to limited success. Watkins started nine games and Davis, who started 15 games at the position in 2005, started six.

However, the problem of giving up too many big plays in the passing game remained. The woes at free safety forced Williams to spend too much time in coverage and away from the line of scrimmage where his skills suit him best. Williams was exposed as a pass defender. He also did not do a good job making the calls on defense.

Hamlin is expected to solve those problems. He has the knowledge to call the defense and the skills to play center field.

"It matters, but you really can't control it," Hamlin said of starting. "It's good to be out there and working with the first team. But it's May. I want to be the starter when the season starts. That's when you want to be starting. But I'm just going to go out there and play like I play. We'll see what happens."

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