The case for keeping Patrick Crayton

The smoke signals coming from Valley Ranch indicate that Patrick Crayton’s fears could come true.

He might not be a Cowboy by Saturday night.

The Cowboys are exploring the trade market for Crayton. If they can’t make a deal, there’s a decent chance that they’ll cut a guy who is arguably their most reliable receiver.

In other words, the scenario he laid out on ESPN 103.3’s Ben and Skin Show while he was skipping voluntary workouts could become reality in a couple of days. That’s why he wanted to be released in the spring. He didn’t want to be job-hunting a week before the season opened.

The Cowboys are crazy if they get rid of Crayton now.

I’ve flip-flopped on the issue over the last few months. My original thought process was that Crayton has always been brutally honest, for better or worse, and wouldn’t be able to play the good soldier while standing on the sideline as an insurance policy. His presence in the locker room would be counterproductive, I thought.

But Crayton swallowed his pride by reporting to Valley Ranch for the final OTA sessions and has been a model citizen since. He doesn’t pretend to like his spot in the receiver pecking order, but he promises that he won’t make waves about it. There’s no reason to doubt his word, especially when his actions back it up.

I also anticipated Kevin Ogletree, who contributed as a rookie, developing into a receiver who was ready to fill Crayton’s shoes. That hasn’t happened.

Ogletree is an intriguing talent who is well worth a roster spot, but he’s not a receiver the Cowboys can rely on right now. He was one of the bigger disappointments of training camp, making far too many mental errors and dropping too many passes.

Ogletree is not consistent enough for the coaches or quarterback to count on him. Jason Garrett and Tony Romo know Crayton will be exactly where he’s supposed to be.

A solid, trustworthy No. 4 receiver shouldn’t be considered a luxury for the Cowboys. Dez Bryant’s durability has to be viewed as a concern. He’s expected to be completely healthy by the season opener, but the first-round pick missed practices due to a stomach ailment and sore hamstring during the spring and missed almost all of training camp with a high ankle sprain. What are the odds that he’ll stay healthy for 16 games?

Why wouldn’t the Cowboys keep Crayton for a season in which they expect to be Super Bowl contenders?

We’ll give the usually thick-skinned Jerry Jones the benefit of the doubt and assume that he isn’t holding a grudge due to Crayton’s offseason boycott and radio rant. That makes money the only reasonable explanation.

The Cowboys would be making a $2 million mistake if they don’t keep Crayton.