The Hamlin Impasse

No, this isn't a stretch of open, no speed limit, thoroughfare in Salzburg, Austria, but it does appear an apparent roadblock out the Valley Ranch way.

A mere three days away from the NFL deadline for franchise tag designated players to negotiate a long-term deal with their clubs, and there is barely a word coming from either side of the transaction. That could mean a lot of things, but in most cases it signifies a large discrepancy in compensation terms. In an attempt to take in all factors swirling around the negotiations, it's beginning to look like the Cowboys' free safety and his representation are taking the "inflated value" approach to things.

It's becoming abundantly clear Hamlin's Pro Bowl appearance and Roy Williams' well-publicized future are headlining Camp Hamlin's bargaining position. Hamlin is trying to paint the futuristic picture and show his ever-increasing value to the team. They're undoubtedly using the franchise tag designation to show the Cowboys feel Hamlin is one of the best free safeties in the League. In any negotiation, you have to play to your strengths, especially when the cross-table opposition is the Jones family. If a player can support his arguments with justifiable backing, Jerry and Stephen are more apt to listen.

So, does Ken Hamlin have justifiable means to leverage a long-term contract with notable annual salaries? His 2008 production, coupled with his age, bodes well for the player, but anything more could be considered a stretch. Even the Pro Bowl designation has to be taken slightly tongue-in-cheek. If Ken Hamlin were a multiple-year Pro Bowl player, things might be different, but his Hawaiian appearance screams, "Let's see it again." After all, this is a player one year removed from being released by his former team (Seahawks). Teams don't randomly and haphazardly release Pro Bowl caliber players. The M.O. on Hamlin was a good, steady and heady player, but Seattle seemed spooked by the head injury Hamlin sustained in an off-field incident. Not sure whether they were more concerned with his condition, future playing ability, or that this behavior might continue down the road. Either way, they cut ties with Ken Hamlin after the 2006 season.

In hindsight, and knowing the big money they shelled out to surround rookie sensation, Marcus Trufant, Mike Holmgren and company might want a "do over," especially if Hamlin can duplicate his efforts in 2008. "Will he?" is the biggest question at this moment. Kennard McGuire, Hamlin's Agent, is known to have a good working relationship with the Cowboys, and hopefully this continues, but the matter of "urgency" does not seem to have either side panicked, and it shouldn't. The free safety stands to make a cool $4.5 million for his efforts in 2008. It's very doubtful he and McGuire would turn their backs on this financial swoon. Leverage exists but not in the form of dynamite or a construction crane; it's more like a small crow bar or medium-sized straight-edge screwdriver. In the proverbial game of rock, paper, scissors, Jerry and Stephen still swing the 50 lbs. sledge. Who do you think blinks first?

The Cowboys need Ken Hamlin in the 2008 secondary. That's a given. He needs to report to Oxnard, with or without a long-term deal. They are too many new personalities and additional schemes coming into play this season. He needs to know all like the back of his hand, especially if he's going to quarterback this defense into its perceived expectations. The Cowboys may not be "goo goo gah gah" over Hamlin, but they like him, and he fits their plans. The Cowboys are also very good about sorting and addressing priorities, and this is where Hamlin's feelings are/got hurt/ruffled.

Kenny and his Agent got caught in the off-season contract shuffle, and in their mind (rightfully so) they didn't bat high enough in the order. While they probably didn't expect to lead things off or even bat clean-up, they didn't expect to step to the plate somewhere between slots #7 and the pitcher. Sorry Ken, but this thing called the franchise tag, and what it will pay you for one year, isn't something to sneeze at. A pretty nice pacifier as Jerry and Stephen set out to address the top of the order. A very nice safety net for all involved.

Those pressing matters included in no certain order: the opting out of the CBA and its huge impact on contract construction and future creation, anchoring Sir Anthony Romo's blindside, keeping the smile on Anthony's favorite target for the next three years, casting aside the flash-in-the-pan Julius Jones, the human battering ram, who will now throw himself all over the field as a starter had to be fed, a Texas-born tackling machine was brought in from Dade County, and the crafty, speed-laden thief patrolling one of two islands had to get his Coast Guard pay. Wow, quite a bit going on this sleepy off-season. Any time you have LT, RB and CB issues to deal with; free safety isn't necessarily the top billing.

A piece of advice to the Hamlin Camp would be "Get this thing done now." There's another round of high-profile negotiations on the heels of the 2008 barrage. Chris Canty sits patiently waiting for his long-term occupancy permit, and then there is the King of Kings when it comes to a Brinks truck. If Hamlin and McGuire want to play "hard ball," they best watch out for the Fort Knox transport that pulls into Valley Ranch to settle the score with D-Ware. Your contract situation, and accompanying money, surely isn't going to trump the Cowboys' #1 destructive force. Hamlin's important; Ware is indispensible.

Hamlin and Anthony Henry provide the Cowboys options when it comes to considering the future of SS Roy Williams. Hamlin and McGuire may be angling for additional battle pay calling attention to the possibility of playing SS in 2009. Jerry and Stephen are aptly glaring across the table telling the twosome to tap the brakes. Roy is not through in these parts, and 2008 should bear this out. It may not pan out like everyone hopes, but you don't tip your monetary hand on a 50-50 proposition. Not now. Those discussions can transpire next off-season, and if it's a huge concern or bargaining chip for Hamlin's Camp, then sign the one-year tender and take your chances. As an aside, but relevant point, the names Watkins and Brown have to also be thrown in front of the Hamlin offensive. "Hey Ken, we have players. We have players who can get the job done. Would we rather have you directing traffic in the back third? Sure, but we like our kids a lot, and with Professor Campo implementing the syllabus for 2008, the learning curve and progression is only going to increase. As a matter of fact, you've missed some valuable class time already under the Professor's direction and tutelage. That doesn't necessarily bode well for you. The second semester commences in Oxnard, and you best be there. If not, this thing could easily become a 2008 grade of "I" (incomplete) or worse yet, DNP. Hitting the free agency market with the moniker DID NOT PARTICIPATE is never a quality bargaining chip. But then again, it's your call!!"

Kenny, you're good, but you're not as good as you think you think you are. Want me to repeat that one for you as you look a little confused??!! See, this chance you were given last year to prove your wears was extended by the Dallas Cowboys. Hey Ken, not sure if you've been reading while you've been away, and hopefully not hanging with drivers license/credit card, white-chopping/cutting, Soooie Pig Matt Jones, but the preseason tabloids think the club is going to be pretty good. Should be pretty good. With, or without you. Don't know about you, but #26 gracing the last line of defense would look most attractive out there, and any former Fayetteville resident most likely could use a shiny new ring. Should we ask Felix? Thought so.

Well Ken, here's the deal. The "real deal" is less than two weeks away. Your understudies are hungry and prepared. Heck, if Adam and Mike tear up the California landscape and pre-season, we may be forced to move Mr. Henry back to your old stomping grounds. You do realize he was leading the NFL in picks prior to going down with his ankle injury last year, right? Think he might be better positioned to snag a few more if he was reading QB the whole way instead of running with a wide out? The bet has to be more favorable. Oh well, we can speculate all day. By the way, Courtney, Patrick, and Dowayne stopped by to send a few messages your way, but we sent them back to the practice field. They had way too much energy to waste on pontification. They were also acting like they hadn't eaten in weeks. Stomachs were growling, hands and arms were twitching, and there was something about that crazed look in their eyes.

You had to be here to see it. Hopefully a first-hand encounter has your name on it in beautiful Oxnard, California. Oh, that's right; you've never been there either, have you? Hey, worst case scenario, you can catch it all on Hard Knocks. You do have HBO, don't you Ken?

When should we expect you?

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