GREG ELLIS: Worth a Trip Home?

Ever since he was released Monday by the Oakland Raiders Monday, the speculation began: would Greg Ellis be welcomed back by the Dallas Cowboys?

It's a situation worth considering. After all, Ellis played the first 11 years of his career in Dallas. In his final season with the Cowboys, he was moved from defensive end to outside linebacker, and despite his objections to the move, he earned his first Pro Bowl bid. When he left Dallas, he earned a three-year, $10 million contract from the Oakland Raiders, for whom he played (and started) 14 games, collecting 29 tackles and seven sacks.

That, apparently, was not enough for the Raiders, who released Ellis Monday. Now, despite having started 170 of 176 games played over 12 years, he wants to continue playing. Given his production and popularity during his years in Dallas, the idea of a return to Dallas popped up immediately.

There has been no reported contact between Ellis and the team yet, but if he does reach out, the Cowboys should tell him, "thanks, but no thanks."

That's not to suggest that Ellis can't play anymore — based on his lone season in Oakland, it appears he can. But bringing him back to Dallas would make no sense.

He didn't like his role in 2008, when he was playing a new position and grooming Anthony Spencer to eventually take over the position; should he return to the Cowboys, he still would be a linebacker, and now he would be Spencer's backup. In addition, the Cowboys have a pair of 2009 rookies in the mix: Victor Butler backed up both Spencer and DeMarcus Ware, and Brandon Williams was expected to contribute before going down for the year with a knee injury during training camp.

During his last couple of years in Dallas, he talked openly of wanting "commitment" from the team. He insisted he wasn't lobbying for a raise, but he would cost more than Spencer and Williams combined.

Despite his recent production — his 27.5 sacks over the last three seasons are the most over any three-year stretch in his career — Ellis presents more risk than reward at this point in his career. He'll be 35 by the time the season starts, and has had injuries, most notably the torn Achilles tendon he suffered in 2006.

More than that, however, he was a distraction before he left town in 2008, and part of what made the Cowboys successful this season was the harmony and chemistry in the locker room. "Me-first" players like Terrell Owens and Pacman Jones were gone. The players genuinely seem to like each other, and like playing with each other.

That's not to suggest Ellis is a bad guy — he's not. He is one of the most likeable players the Cowboys have ever had. Media and players like him. Even when he was objecting to his reduced playing time and/or his move from defensive end to linebacker a few years ago, then-coach Bill Parcells spoke very highly of him.

The fact is that Ellis probably still can play. But the potential distraction he brings off the field very well could outweigh the contribution he could make on it. On a team that seems reluctant to go after high-priced veterans this offseason while maintaining the delicate balance of youth and experience that made the Dallas defense one of the league's best last season, Ellis just doesn't seem like a wise investment.

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