Sports Outside the Beltway

Cowboys Cut Future Hall of Famer Guard Larry Allen

In a sad but expected move, the Dallas Cowboys have cut perenniel Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen for salary cap reasons.

Photo After joining the team in 1994, Larry Allen's 12-year run with the Cowboys has come to an end. Just three days after signing one of the most decorative free agents in club history, the Cowboys have parted ways with one of their most celebrated players. After months – actually years – of speculation, the Cowboys officially released Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen early Tuesday evening. The move not only saves the Cowboys a total of about $3.55 million on the salary cup, but frees them of a $2 million roster bonus due to Allen on April 1. His remaining prorated signing bonus, though, will count $4 million against this year’s salary cap.

Even though the Cowboys signed Terrell Owens to the three-year, $25 million deal on Saturday, they still had roughly $10 million to $12 million in cap space. They still have about that much since Allen’s cap hit and savings are about a push. “This decision is a tough one for me personally,” said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. “Larry has been the best in pro football for a long time. His ability and performance set a standard for excellence at his position in the NFL for many years, and we are grateful for his contributions to the Dallas Cowboys.”

The writing has been on the wall for a while, and not just because of Allen’s $7.55 million charge against the salary cap in 2006. But when the Cowboys signed free-agent guard Kyle Kosier on March 4, coupled with the signing of right tackle Jason Fabini on Saturday, Allen’s glorious run with the Cowboys appeared to be ending.

Allen, who recently played in his 10th Pro Bowl of his 12-year career, is easily the most distinguished offensive lineman in Cowboys history. No other offensive player has been to more Pro Bowls with the Cowboys than Allen, who has matched Mel Renfro for second place in club history with 10 appearances, trailing only Bob Lilly (11). But unless the Cowboys decide to re-sign Allen to a more palatable contract, Allen has played his final game with in a Cowboys uniform, ending a stellar career that began in 1994.

“We have come to this crossroad today with concern for managing our resources with respect to the immediate and long term financial structure of our team. Just as importantly, we give great consideration and respect to Larry’s future and his ability to explore his professional options. We have also made it clear that the door is open for one of those options to include a return to the Cowboys. “On behalf of all Dallas Cowboys fans, I salute a sure-fire Pro Football Hall of Famer, Larry Allen.”

As a second-round draft pick that year, it didn’t take Allen long before he worked himself into the starting rotation as a rookie, injuries causing Allen to take over at right tackle by the end of the season. But Allen found his niche at left guard by the very next season, the first of seven consecutive All-Pro seasons. While Allen had clearly distinguished himself as the game’s best guard, he showed his versatility at the end of the 1997 season, moving to left tackle after an injury to Mark Tuinei. Allen actually started all 16 games at left tackle in 1998, and didn’t miss a beat, earning All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors once again.

But injuries and conditioning started catching up to Allen here in the last few years. A severe ankle injury in 2002 that needed surgery to repair torn ligaments and remove bone spurs, not only forced him to injured reserve for the final eight games of the season, but ended his impressive Pro Bowl streak. While Allen has returned to the annual all-star game the past three years, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride.

Allen occasionally clashed with head coach Bill Parcells, who took over in 2003, and has pushed the Pro Bowl guard to get in better shape. At the beginning of training camp last summer in Oxnard, Calif., Allen failed Parcells’ conditioning test, forcing him to miss nearly the first week of practice while concentrating on his running. Allen, though, rarely, if ever passed the team’s conditioning test, which entailed a series of runs in a specific time frame. Once he returned to the field, Allen had no problems displaying his enormous strength and inside blocking ability. However, over the last few years, Allen has struggled with lateral movement and hasn’t been as consistent pulling to make blockers or blocking downfield.

With Allen gone, Flozell Adams and Greg Ellis are now the longest tenured players on the Cowboys roster, both joining the team in 1998. Allen was the last player still on the Cowboys roster who had played on a Super Bowl-winning team in the 90′s.

This isn’t quite like letting Emmitt Smith go two years ago but it is nonetheless one of the bitter aspects of the business side of the game. Truth be told, even Cowboys fans would admit that Allen made the Pro Bowl mostly on reputation the last several years. And he certainly does not merit superstar money anymore, especially in a salary cap world. If the Cowboys can sign him back to a reasonable deal, though, I would sure like to see him finish his career in silver and blue.

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