Josh Brent's talent is trump card

IRVING, Texas -- This one isn't hard to figure out. Not if you think about it for more than a minute.

Why does defensive tackle Josh Brent still occupy a spot on the Dallas Cowboys' roster?

Jerry Jones thinks he can be a quality football player in 2014 if he's not in jail for intoxication manslaughter for the one-car accident in December that claimed the life of Brent's best friend and teammate, Jerry Brown.

See? It wasn't so complicated.

Talent trumps just about everything in today's NFL.

This isn't so much about a commitment Jerry made to Brown's mom to keep Brent close to the franchise as it is his football potential. It doesn't matter if you think Brent is just a guy. Or slightly better. It doesn't matter if you think he can't play at all. What matters is Jerry thinks he can help.

Ask around the club's Valley Ranch training complex about why Brent remains on the roster and folks either aren't sure or they say you'll have to ask the team's owner. Jason Garrett's name rarely comes up in these conversations because Jones holds the ultimate trump card as owner and GM.

The bottom line is if Jones believes a player can help the Cowboys win, he's going to provide opportunity after opportunity after opportunity.

Under Jones, the Cowboys have given second and third and fourth chances to all types of players, from Alonzo Spellman to Dimitrius Underwood to Leo Carson to Michael Irvin to Leon Lett to Pacman Jones.

Only Irvin was a star.

This is a franchise mired in the muck of mediocrity. It has missed the playoffs four of the past five seasons and has one lonely playoff win since 1996. It's not good enough to pass up players who might be able to help. In some ways, that's sad.

The NFL will rule on Brent's status this week, and he probably will be suspended for 4-6 games, though no one should be shocked if he gets a year. If a plea agreement isn't reached in his case, the trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 23. If he's not convicted, there's no reason to believe Brent won't go through the Cowboys' offseason program and be ready to compete for a starting job in 2014.

And if Brent is convicted, there have been numerous instances in which an offender received probation, which didn't require more than the 120 days of mandatory jail time that accompanies a conviction.

The point is that there's no guarantee, right now, that Brent's career in Dallas is over -- and that's why he has remained on the roster. All that means is there's a sliver of possibility Brent could eventually help the Cowboys.

The worst-case scenario for Brent is a year suspension because that would mean he would be unable to participate in the offseason program or minicamps next offseason. It would mean he'd be eligible to rejoin the team the week before training camp after about 18 months without practicing. The odds of his contributing in 2015 under that scenario are slim, though he'd be only 27.

Just so you know, if Brent gets suspended for a year, he doesn't gain an accrued season and the Cowboys would still have his rights for another season before he became a restricted free agent. That said, do you really think Brent would leave the franchise that stuck with him through all of this? Nope.

The defensive line -- no matter what the Cowboys' front office says -- is not a strength. DeMarcus Ware turns 31 in two weeks. Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher will be free agents at the end of the season, and Jay Ratliff is coming off an injury-plagued season. The Cowboys need all the good young defensive linemen they can get.

Brent can be a good player, and that's the primary reason he's still with the franchise. After all, he's counting only $641,889 against the club's salary cap.

The quandary for the Cowboys is how to retain his rights without having to use one of their 90 roster spots for training camp.

Expect the NFL to solve their problem soon.