Williams deal had ripple effect
It's easy to take the emotion of the end of Jeremiah Ratliff's time with the Cowboys and point to that as Jerry Jones' worst deal in recent years.
This is in no way to defend the deal, but I just want to offer some perspective: Ratliff was coming off a fourth straight Pro Bowl appearance when the Cowboys extended him with two years on the deal. They definitely got their moneys worth on Ratliff's first deal in 2007, so maybe some sort of guilt hung over Jones.
But they also wanted to extend Jason Witten's contract with two years to go. Imagine if they didn't do that and Witten was coming off a record 110-catch season as he entered free agency. That would have cost them.
They couldn't extend Witten's deal without extending Ratliff's. It would not have been good for the players in the locker room.
The mistake was believing Ratliff had as much left in the tank as Witten. He didn't and his numbers were declining every year. The Cowboys chose to ignore them, just as they ignored his temperament in dealing with staff, coaches, teammates and even the owner, as we learned in 2012 when he and Jones had a dustup in the locker room after a game.
To me, the trade for wide receiver Roy Williams and the subsequent extension given the receiver was the worst deal Jones made. It's my belief -- and only mine -- that the Cowboys made the trade for Williams to deflect attention away from the suspension the NFL handed down to Adam Jones on the same day.
With Williams heading into free agency, the Cowboys had to fork over a sizeable contract. They could not give up draft picks to the Detroit Lions and have Williams leave via free agency the following year. All of the leverage was with Williams, and the Cowboys had to pay. They gave him $20 million guaranteed on a five-year, $45 million deal. In 40 games with the Cowboys, Williams caught 94 passes for 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns. It was just never a fit.
But you cannot ignore what the Cowboys gave up to get Williams when factoring in why this deal was Jones' worst.
The Cowboys gave up first-, third- and sixth-round picks to the Lions to get Williams in 2008.
The Cowboys had one of their worst drafts ever in 2009 in part because they did not have premium picks because of the Williams trade.
Williams' contract also affected the contract Miles Austin received. Austin became the No. 1 receiver the Cowboys thought Williams would become in 2009. The Cowboys could not pay Austin, younger and better, less than Williams, so he got a six-year, $54 million deal that included $17 million in the first year.
The Austin deal played a part in the $10 million sanction the NFL levied against the Cowboys for what they felt was a work-around the uncapped year. Without the Williams deal, the Cowboys probably dont face those sanctions either.
The Ratliff deal was bad. There is no doubt about that. But the Williams deal was worse.
Ratliff delivered nothing but drama
It's impossible for a return on investment to be any worse than what Jerry Jones got from Jeremiah Ratliff's last contract with the Cowboys.
Ratliff delivered nothing but drama for the $18 million in guaranteed money he got from the contract extension, which was signed in the summer of 2011 but technically didn't kick in until this season.
Not a single snap for $18 million. Let that sink in. It makes the 13 touchdowns Roy Williams scored for the Cowboys seem like great value.
Jeez, just imagine how irrationally angry Ratliff would have been with Jerry if he didn't get all those dollars.
Perhaps you want to play semantics and say that Ratliff was rewarded the signing bonus so he'd be adequately compensated as a Pro Bowl nose tackle during the final two years of his team-friendly previous contract. In that case, it was still a terrible deal for Dallas.
Ratliff made a fourth Pro Bowl in 2011, but that was based purely on reputation, not performance. He had a grand total of two sacks that season, which was two more than he had in 2012, when injuries limited him to six games and one physical confrontation with the man who foolishly made him ridiculously rich.
The Cowboys made an awful, really atrocious decision by restructuring Ratliff's deal last offseason. This was after his sack total had declined five straight seasons, after his body had broken down, after he committed one of the most egregious acts of insubordination in NFL history and after he was charged with driving while intoxicated for a wreck six weeks after another wreck that left one teammate dead and another facing trial on intoxication manslaughter and manslaughter charges that could result in a prison sentence.
The result: Ratliff will count for $6.9 million against the Cowboys' cap next season.
For some reason, Jerry felt guilty after getting Ratliff at great value on his first contract extension, a five-year, $20.9 million deal signed during his first season as a starter. That's the only reasonable explanation for the second extension, which was signed during his first season as a starter.
Ratliff had zero leverage with two years remaining on his deal at the time. There were glaring signs of decline, as he was coming off a season in which he didn't record a tackle for a loss and had pressure numbers (3.5 sacks, 10 hurries) that paled in comparison to his previous two years. And there should have been concern about Ratliff's body wearing down after years of being an undersized nose tackle.
The Cowboys can't be blamed for not forecasting Ratliff quitting on them. That just sealed the deal for this being the worst of all of Jerry's bad contracts.