Mailbag: 4/12/10 (Doug Free, Alan Ball, Marion Barber, Draft)
Q: Who do you think will be the Cowboys’ opening day starters at left tackle and free safety? We didn’t really cut Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin for Doug Free and Alan Ball, did we?
Ryan Warren, Washington, D.C.
A: If pressed to answer today, we would say the Cowboys’ opening day left tackle starter will be Doug Free, but the starting free safety is not yet on the roster. The Cowboys apparently love what they have in Free and are unconcerned about his transition to left tackle. He is extremely athletic and should at least be an upgrade in pass protection (we gave Adams a ‘D+’ in pass protection in 2009).
At safety, we simply cannot see the team starting either Alan Ball or Michael Hamlin. Ball played decent last season against the pass, but was atrocious against the run (we gave him a ‘C+’ overall grade). The organization really likes the potential of the “new Hamlin,” but he is of course an unproven commodity. If the Cowboys don’t add a free safety, Ball and Hamlin will battle in camp for the starting job.
The Cowboys will probably select a free safety in the early rounds of this year’s draft. The problem is that the top-tier guys at the position will be gone by the Cowboys’ 27th overall selection, so they will likely have to settle on a player like USF’s Nate Allen or Georgia Tech’s Morgan Burnett. Are these players immediate upgrades over Ball and Hamlin? We may soon find out.
So, our final answer: starting left tackle–Doug Free, starting free safety–a rookie.
Q: I heard you guys have a free Mock Draft Challenge. Where is that? How do I sign up?
Charles Franklin via Twitter
A: No sign up necessary. Simply follow this link, read the rules, and submit your Mock Draft in the comments section. The winner receives a Cowboys mini helmet signed by Tony Romo.
Q: Why don’t the Cowboys trade Marion Barber for a mid-round pick and draft a rookie to eventually take over for him? His job isn’t that difficult to replace.
Lisa Taylor, Myrtle Beach, SC
A: Barber has been injured of late and, along with Roy Williams, is the player we hear fans asking to trade the most often. Trading Barber now for a mid-round pick would be analogous to selling a stock when it is at its lowest point–it just isn’t business-savvy.
Despite his recent decline, Barber is still a very talented running back. He is still only 26 years old. Yes, he has a bunch of “wear and tear,” but not so much that his career is over.
Barber should really benefit greatly from Felix Jones starting in 2010. This will allow him to return to the job of “closer” –a role in which he flourished while Julius Jones was in Dallas.
Further, the Cowboys are set up to win right now. Of course teams always want to do what is best for their future, but at a certain point you just have to lay it on the line. Even if trading Barber for a mid-rounder is ultimately a better long-term decision, do you really think a third or fourth round pick can come in and effectively replace Barber in 2010?
Q: The Steelers just traded WR Santonio Holmes to the Jets for a fifth-rounder. Why didn’t the Cowboys give up theirs for Holmes? He would be an upgrade over Roy Williams.
James Stroud, Memphis, TN
A: Outside of the fact that the Cowboys don’t have a fifth round pick in this year’s draft, the move wouldn’t make sense. We know you all want to see Roy Williams gone, but he isn’t going anywhere in 2010.
Further, the Cowboys have obviously placed an emphasis on player conduct in recent seasons. There is no way Jerry Jones could justify releasing T.O., a player who never gets in trouble, for Holmes, a less-talented wide out who is already facing a league-imposed four game suspension for failing multiple drug tests.