High-priced vets judged on merit, not money

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Dallas Cowboys will not consider the upcoming uncapped season an opportunity to dump salary.

"We're either going to keep a player or not keep a player based on skill," executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

That doesn't necessarily mean that the Cowboys won't part ways with a high-priced veteran. But if they do, it'll be because they believe it's in the team's best interest, not to save money.

The Cowboys had a similar situation last offseason, when they opted to release veteran outside linebacker Greg Ellis. That move saved more than $5 million, but the reason for the release was to open up a starting job for Anthony Spencer.

While offensive tackle Doug Free and free safety Alan Ball weren't first-round picks, their situations are somewhat similar to Spencer's a year ago. They have earned consideration as potential starters in limited playing time, but they're stuck behind high-paid veterans on the depth chart.

Could the Cowboys make another decision similar to the one they made in releasing Ellis last year?

"I think it could ultimately happen," Jones said. "It hasn’t been decided, but it could ultimately fall that way. I think we’ve got a lot of young players, if given the opportunity, would probably play better than most people think."

Jones understandably declined to detail the Cowboys brass' thoughts regarding the futures of Adams and Hamlin. How the draft plays out could affect those decisions.

My hunch is that Adams is much more likely to return to Valley Ranch than Hamlin.

Adams has his flaws, but he's still an above-average left tackle. It's been years since the Cowboys had good depth at offensive tackle, so you'd think the Cowboys would want to enter the season with three solid veterans and perhaps an early-round pick at that position.

Hamlin, who is guaranteed only $1.1 million of his $5.6 million salary, has been mediocre since getting paid after his lone Pro Bowl season. It'd be much easier for the Cowboys to upgrade at free safety than it would be at left tackle.