Sports Outside the Beltway

Jones: Cutting Larry Allen Hurt

Rick Gosselin talked with Jerry Jones about the human side of the business of football. It’s not just players who feel emotional pain.

The salary cap has taught NFL teams you must learn to say good-bye to your older players. Even when sometimes they are your best players.

A week after the fact, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is still struggling with his decision to release 1990s all-decade offensive lineman Larry Allen, the last link to the franchise’s Super Bowl era. Speaking publicly for the first time since cutting his seven-time Pro Bowl blocker March 22, Jones talked of the difficulty he’ll have watching Allen wear the uniform of the Cowboys’ longtime rival the San Francisco 49ers in 2006. “It hurts a lot,” said Jones from his hotel suite at the NFL spring meetings. “I was so proud of him as a Dallas Cowboy, as much as any player we’ve ever had. “I have so much respect for him. You hear about Bob Lilly as the best left defensive tackle ever to play the game. I’m convinced that Larry can get some of that kind of recognition as well.”

Jones believes Allen was still playing at an elite level in 2005 when he was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl. “He still had the ability,” Jones said. “He graded out as our best lineman last year. That makes you scratch your head. But we needed to get younger, and we had the opportunity to do that. “Very candidly, we needed to allocate those dollars … some of them to T.O. I’m not saying T.O. cost us Larry. But we had to shuffle around.”

Allen is 34. He was scheduled to make $5.5 million in 2006, counting a $2 million signing bonus in April. His release came three days after the Cowboys signed wide receiver Terrell Owens. Allen’s salary cap figure would have been $7.5 million in 2006. Owens comes in at $6.6 million. You can pay that kind of money to an offensive playmaker. You can’t to an offensive guard.

“When we gave Larry his third contract [in 2002], he was going to be our left tackle,” Jones said. “He’d been a Pro Bowler at left tackle. Then we drafted Flozell Adams. He comes in and can play left tackle. Whether it be Hudson Houck or Camps [Dave Campo]…nobody ever wanted to get rid of that luxury of having a Larry Allen and a Flozell Adams over on that left side. “But his arrangement was all predicated on him moving out to left tackle, and we’d be good at left tackle for five or six years. If you look back at what we paid him, the kind of lessons I’ve learned – you can’t stack it up like that on the offensive line. You can’t pay somebody like that to play left tackle when he’s not playing left tackle, when he’s playing left guard.”

Jones hashed over the idea of asking Allen to take a pay cut to finish his career in Dallas. “I’m not so sure I couldn’t have sat down with Larry personally and said, ‘Let’s get in here and reduce this thing down and stay with us,’” Jones said. “We did the best thing for the team. But it did cross my mind that we could make this work. There was a part of me that thought he might get out there and [find the money] might not be there. But I knew when we extended the collective bargaining agreement we were in trouble with him.”

It’s always sad to lose a good player, especially one who has been with the team a long time. But, Jones is right: You simply can’t pay an aging offensive lineman, especially a guard, that kind of money.

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