So a lot of the Cowboys talk these days is about where they are in relation to what the new salary cap will be once the new labor deal is in place. Multisport superstar Calvin Watkins, writing on ESPNDallas.com, is in line with the burgeoning majority of people expecting it to be around $120 million and wondering what the Cowboys will do about knocking $18 million or so off their payroll to get under it. Especially considering all the free agents they need to sign.
Calvin raises a possibility I'd not yet seen elsewhere and didn't realize could be considered -- cutting inside linebacker Bradie James, which would save a cool $4 million. Financially, that's going to have to be tempting, especially if they think second-round pick Bruce Carter is going to be healthy and able to contribute. But Calvin thinks it'd be foolish:
He's the heart and soul of the defense, a team leader who has started 96 consecutive games, the second-longest streak among active linebackers in the NFL. London Fletcher leads with 167 consecutive starts.
No current Cowboys player has started or played more games for the team than James. Overall, he's played in 126 consecutive games for the Cowboys, three more than tight end Jason Witten.
You might think James isn't an elite player, especially when you look at some of the players at his position in the 3-4 defense, such as Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis and Fletcher. But understand just how good James is by looking at what he does.
James finished tied for 17th in total tackles with 118 last season and had a 20-game streak without a penalty end when he was flagged in Week 16 of last season.
I'm with Calvin. I think the Cowboys are doing the right thing by grooming young guys like Carter and Sean Lee to replace James and Keith Brooking when it's time. But I think cutting a leader like James from a defense that could use a rudder would be a mistake, even if it's done to make room for vital new acquisitions at safety, cornerback and on the defensive line. There is other fat on the roster to trim, and if they cut James they could very well find themselves having to spend to replace him within the next year.
Frankly, I'm not even sure why Calvin is trying to scare you guys like that. Maybe he's been covering too much baseball.