Expect Jones to spin T.O.'s release

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took one for the team late Wednesday. He consulted several voices -- mostly the ones in his head -- and determined his club would be better off without wide receiver Terrell Owens.

In case you haven't followed Jones' career, admitting defeat isn't one of his strong points. We'd read reports recently that people inside Valley Ranch were lobbying for the owner to part ways with his controversial receiver. In fact, his own son was named as one of the lobbyists.

Jones reacted by shooting down those reports and dropping hints that T.O. would be on the roster in '09. It was his claim that chemistry in a locker room is highly overrated. Who cares if your star receiver reportedly thinks your star tight end and quarterback are having slumber parties to design plays behind everyone's backs?

Jones sold his soul to T.O. in 2006, something that helped force Bill Parcells into early (and temporary) retirement. And after T.O.'s Pro Bowl season in 2007, Jones signed him to a $34 million extension. Jones was determined to make the relationship work -- and that's part of the reason his sudden reversal is catching so many people off guard.

Since I'm quite familiar with the Jones playbook by now, allow me to tell you what the Valley Ranch spin will be on this decision. The owner will insist he didn't factor locker-room chemistry into his thought process, because that's what the media is waiting to hear. Instead, he will roll out a theory he took for a spin with several local TV stations over the weekend.

Jones will say the offense suffered this past season because there weren't enough footballs to go around and that it's time for Roy Williams to become the focal point of the offense. Since T.O. might have impeded Williams' progress, he now is looking for a fourth team. That will be the spin.

The reality (the part you won't hear) is that Jones is making this move in an effort to help quarterback Tony Romo. I've had several sources at Valley Ranch indicate that the constant drama from T.O. took a mental toll on Romo. And it was pretty obvious that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett wasn't going to fix the situation.

When T.O. complained after games that he wasn't getting enough balls, Jones and head coach Wade Phillips agreed with him. It might have been unintentional, but they undermined their quarterback at every turn in an effort to keep one player happy. T.O. had become the most powerful voice in the locker room -- and that wasn't a good thing.

Jones finally has stumbled into making the right move, but now the Cowboys have to figure out how to replace T.O.'s production. In 10 games last season, Williams had 19 catches for 198 yards. With all due respect to the former Lion, those aren't the type of numbers around which you build an offense.

Does the combination of Williams, Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton scare anyone in the NFC East? Probably not. The Cowboys will have to address the receiver position in free agency or the draft. And that's a dicey proposition when you consider they traded first- and third-round picks to the Lions for Williams.

Releasing T.O. was the right move for the long-term health of the franchise. But in the short term, this team's playoff prospects for '09 just took a significant hit.

And what's the market for a 35-year-old wide receiver who's worn out his welcome with three organizations? Let's quickly rule out the Cowboys' NFC East foes. Redskins owner Dan Snyder is the only one who would even consider it, but he's spent all his money (for this free-agency period). The Vikings made a run at T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but coach Brad Childress has a chilly relationship with T.O.

Honestly, the Raiders are the only team that might be eager to sign T.O. If you can't make it work with Jerry Jones, you might be out of luck. So could this be the end for T.O.? He doesn't want to retire, but there's not going to be much of a market for him.

Matt Mosley is the NFC East blogger for ESPN.com