Should Dallas Take a Chance?

The temptation is always there. Every year, disgruntled veterans hold out, demanding a trade (or in most cases, a raise).

Others get cut, either because the financial impact they have on their teams is too much for their owners to swallow, or because they have disciplinary or behavioral issues that make their employers feel the financial cost of cutting the troublemaking players is easier to tolerate than the players' behavior. (Of course, talent overrides nearly everything, and owners who have a supremely talented diva on their hands always seem to develop a much higher tolerance for unruly employees.)

So the list is growing already this year. Some are employed and upset, others have earned a spot in the unemployment line — and are understandably very upset. Now that we're in to June, there will be others — either others who suddenly find themselves unemployed, or at least others who get really grumpy when they find themselves losing snaps, and perhaps a starting role, to some hotshot 23-year-old just out of college.

The Cowboys have been linked to several. After all, any team willing to add — and even trade for — Adam "Pacman" Jones must be willing to take on every misbehaving misfit on the market, right? One source or another has linked virtually every unemployed or "available" player to the Cowboys. But who should the team pursue, and who should the team avoide?

RB Shawn Alexander: No

While it would be rather amusing to see Alexander — one of the great runners of the last decade — come to Dallas and do what his replacement in Seattle, Julius Jones, wasn't able to do (lead the Cowboys to any level of postseason success), it absolutely isn't worth it. For all his accomplishments — and they are many — Alexander has enormous talent, and an even bigger ego. He's excellent, and he knows it. Even if he comes in saying all the right things about his role as a "veteran presence who's here to help the younger players," it's a safe bet he'll get cranky before long after watching Marion Barber rip through defenses, and the team didn't draft Felix Jones to stay on the sideline permanently. Besides, Alexander would be expensive.

WR Anquin Boldin: Yes

If only there was a way, right? Arizona has made it clear it has no intention of moving its young star, but wouldn't he be perfect across from Terrell Owens? T.O. is a big guy, but this guy is bigger and stronger, and would go across the middle enough to alleviate T.O.'s forays into heavy traffic. Boldin had to be none too thrilled to see the Cardinals pony up $40 million for his fellow wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, and let it be known that he wouldn't cry if the Cardinals shipped him out. Truth be told, he should have been thrilled, because the pressure will be immense for the team to re-sign him, and he might hit an even bigger jackpot than Fitzgerald. But when someone sees a colleague hit the motherload, it's hard not to get jealous. Prying him from the Cardinals would be expensive — start with the two first-round picks they paid for Joey Galloway, and then raise the bar with a mid-level player — but Boldin is not Galloway. He's younger, stronger and more talented. He has a lot of productive years left. Arizona said he's not leaving town, and that probably is true. But the Cowboys should be on the phone finding out.

DT Tommie Harris: No

That's right — no. Harris is one of the best young defensive tackles in the league, and is nearly a local guy, what with his Oklahoma Sooner lineage. But this is one player Dallas should not pursue. For one thing, the compensation would hit the Cowboys twice, as he's looking for a monster deal that offers length and absurd dollars — maybe the most ever for a defensive tackle, and there are many who feel he should be the highest-paid player at his position. But Dallas would have to give up a ton — teams do overvalue their own players, so might the Bears, if they feel he's the best DT in the league, demand Barber and Chris Canty? — in compensation and in long-term salary. Even more importantly, he's the ultimate 4-3 defensive tackle. The Cowboys' 3-4 alignment requires an monstrous anchor in the middle on the north side of 300 pounds, and Harris isn't that guy. He's freakishly quick and talented, and can cause major havoc in a 4-3, but he's not a 3-4 tackle.

WR Chris Henry: No

Pacman Jones is going to make Cowboys über-counselor Calvin Hill earn every dime in his salary. But this one-man trainwreck is worse. He's big, he's fast and he's talented, so he might well find a team to take a chance on him — especially now that Henry got a judge to allow him to travel out of state if he can score a try out … which, thus far, he hasn't. Go figure.

DE Michael Strahan: No

Technically, he's not available. Word is he's waiting for the Giants to back the Brinks truck up to the gate in front of his palace … er, house … after he sits out another training camp while "deciding if he wants to play anymore," but if the Giants decline to hand him the keys to Wall Street, Strahan is just the kind of diva who would sign with another team if offered a ridiculously large salary … "because he just loves the game," of course. (Think Greg Ellis is melodramatic?) Players who tack on an extra year or two at the end of an otherwise brilliant career (Emmitt Smith, Joe Namath, Franco Harris, Tony Dorsett) are somewhere between delusional and sad, and Strahan would sail to the top of the list. Let him play for the Giants or let him retire, but do not bring him here.

DE Jason Taylor: Yes

It's not as ridiculous as many think. Remember, Taylor's boss is the man he has barely met, Bill Parcells, who also happens to be more adamant than anyone in the NFL (outside of Jerry Jones, anyway) about proving he is in charge. It's not that he doesn't think Taylor can play — Tuna might be stubborn, but he's not stupid — but he wants Taylor to play the Parcells way. Follow Tuna's rules. Do what Tuna tells him. Taylor upstaged the new boss in Miami by spending his offseason competing on Dancing with the Stars, rather than lifting with the Dolphins, and Tuna can't stand to be shown up. He has said Taylor is not for sale, but make him an offer — say, Greg Ellis and a mid-round draft choice. The answer might be surprising.

LB Odell Thurman: Yes

Maybe the toughest call on this list, Thurman has broken many rules — and laws — many times. But he also is very talented (remember the first paragraph?), very young, and because of his legal indiscretions, he would be very cheap. There would be no compensation owed to the Bengals, since the NFL's resident asylum washed its collective hands of Henry and Thurman. He could be had for a cheap (read: "minimum") contract, and there would be an understanding that he would not jaywalk, call home or sneeze without permission, and that if he so much as blinked without permission from Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips, he'd be gone. Would he make it? Doubt it. But if he did stay on the straight and narrow, he'd be a steal.

LB Brian Urlacher: Yes

Like Boldin, he's not going anywhere. But unlike some others on this list, he'd be worth the considerable cost (in compensation to the Bears and in dollars to Urlacher). Akin Ayodele is gone, Zach Thomas is on the downside of his career and Bobby Carpenter may or may ever come close to playing like a first-round draft choice. Pairing Urlacher inside with Bradie James would change the entire complexion of the defense, because he is a once-in-a-generation athlete who can dominate games. But he also is revered in the same way Chicago fans bowed down to Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary, and there's no way the Bears ever let him get out of town.

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