Who is the most likely highly paid veteran to receive walking paper this offseason at Valley Ranch? My pick would be free safety Ken Hamlin.
Hamlin is a prime candidate to be cut for three reasons: 1) He’s due a lot of money, but not much is guaranteed; 2) He’s had little production in the last two seasons; 3) Alan Ball proved during a four-game stint filling in for Hamlin that he’s a capable replacement.
Hamlin parlayed the only Pro Bowl season of his career into a six-year, $39 million deal with a $9 million signing bonus. His 2010 salary would be $5.6 million, only $1.1 million of which is guaranteed.
Is it worth $4.5 million to keep Hamlin on the team? Hamlin hasn’t been bad the last two seasons, but he certainly hasn’t been an impact player. He has one interception since getting his big contract. Owner/general manager Jerry Jones cited the lack of plays made by the safeties as one of his primary concerns in the middle of the season.
There were some within the organization that wanted Ball to keep the starting job after Hamlin recovered from a high ankle sprain. However, it’s not Wade Phillips’ style to take a veteran’s job away after an injury, plus Phillips values Hamlin’s communication ability. With the way the defense peaked at the end of the season, you can’t criticize Phillips’ decision to start Hamlin.
But Ball planted seeds of confidence with the coaching staff and front office. It’s conceivable that the Cowboys could go into training camp with Ball as the starting free safety and an early-round draft pick pushing him.
It’s debatable whether cutting Hamlin would hurt the Cowboys, and it could be tough to convince Jerry that keeping an average free safety is worth the expense.