Roy Williams: Insurance policy

When Terrell Owens was running around with a star on his helmet, constant questions about whether he would remain with the Dallas Cowboys abounded.

Every year, team owner and general manager Jerry Jones assured that T.O. was returning until one night in South Florida, when he and Stephen Jones met with the receiver and told him they had to cut him.

It was an emotional moment for Owens, who wanted to retire with the Cowboys. But Jerry Jones did what was in the best interest of the team.

That brings us to Roy Williams, who has replaced Owens as the Cowboys player who most people want to see let go.

In 40 games with the Cowboys, Williams has 94 catches for 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns.

It would seem the Cowboys would want more from Williams, considering they gave up three draft picks for him in a trade with the Detroit Lions and signed him to a five-year contract extension worth $45 million with $20 million guaranteed.

Williams has never lived up to the contract. At some point, the Cowboys and Williams will have to part ways. But the contract Williams signed and the projected 2011 salary cap will keep him in Dallas, at least for one more season.

The Cowboys are about $18 million over a projected $120 million salary cap and they have to cut players and restructure contracts to get under it.

There is speculation that Williams' lack of production would lead to his release when the lockout ends, but the Cowboys would take a $12.9 million cap hit.

So should the Cowboys cut ties with him?

Williams had only two drops in 2010, eight fewer than Miles Austin, but finished with 511 fewer yards. He also had 31 fewer yards than 2010 first-round pick Dez Bryant.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett isn't as attached to Williams as he is to Austin and Bryant and is still trying to figure out ways to use him.

This isn't all Garrett's fault. Williams has to work harder to get open. He has to get in better shape, which he did last year. And he must develop a chemistry with Tony Romo.

If Jerry Jones, the man who makes the decisions regarding the Cowboys roster, says Williams has to go, then unproven Kevin Ogletree moves into the No. 3 slot. There is also Bryant, who struggled at times with the playbook in his rookie season.

It's a hard decision to make from a financial and locker-room standpoint. Williams emerged as one of the leaders among the receivers, but Bryant didn't seem willing to take to the tutelage. You remember how Bryant refused to carry Williams' shoulder pads during training camp last year, don't you?

Williams has acted like a professional during his time in Dallas. Sure, he'll complain about the offense now and then, but he's always ready to speak with reporters and tell them his thoughts.

He's got close friends on the team. The native of Odessa has developed into a good story about a Texas kid making it with an NFL team in the big city.

"I think I'll be back," Williams said recently. "I feel like I'm part of the big three. If things are done the way they're supposed to be done, I'll do the things that is supposed to be done."

For the record, the "big three" Williams referred to are Austin, Bryant and him.

With the salary cap issues and Bryant's youth, Williams has become an insurance policy as the No. 2 receiver. And if Bryant does beat out Williams for the No. 2 spot, something he didn't do last year, Ogletree has to step up. But there's no telling if he can beat out Williams.

It's quite possible Williams and the Cowboys remain friends for another season.

While the questions will come about his status with the team, there's nothing wrong with having a little insurance.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.