IRVING — Now that the Dan Reeves deal is dead, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones needs to do whatever it takes to get Baltimore Ravens free agent linebacker Ray Lewis to Dallas.
If Jones is going to keep coach Wade Phillips and bring back combustible wide receiver Terrell Owens, then Jones needs to add Lewis to the mix. Now that would be a change Cowboys fans can believe in.
Forget all this change that the Cowboys have been talking about since the end of what was the most disappointing and underachieving season in team history. Phillips said he was going to change his ways and get tougher. Jones said he was going to re-examine how he goes about his business. And just the other day in an exclusive interview with CBS 11’s Babe Laufenberg, quarterback Tony Romo said he would be a different leader next season. He also said the entire team was focused on digging inside to make amends for last season and build something special in 2009.
Let’s be honest, based on their history and personalities, it’s hard to buy what the three are selling. Remember, they also made promises of Super Bowl grandeur following the 13-3 regular season and first-round playoff exit in 2007 only to reward the fans with last season’s downright criminal finish.
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If the Cowboys really want to take a cue from the best change agent going today -- President Barack Obama -- and his "it’s about time, it’s about change" motto, then they need to do something bold and bad.
That means making a run at Lewis, who has put the Cowboys on the short list of teams he’d consider leaving the Ravens for. Even though Lewis will be 34 in March, he is still a highly-productive player and would make a nice fit next to Bradie James at inside linebacker.
But more importantly, the 13-year veteran brings leadership. He is the quintessential fiery team leader the Cowboys need. He is not afraid to say what’s on his mind and hold his teammates accountable. There are few players in the league respected more than Lewis for his leadership. He is the veritable E.F. Hutton of the NFL. When Lewis talks, players listen. That was never more evident than in last Sunday’s Pro Bowl when Lewis gave a fiery pregame speech that was more fitting for a Super Bowl than this meaningless exhibition game. Yet, big money and big-time stars from all over the AFC listened as Lewis passionately implored them to do something special out there.
Full disclosure here, I wasn’t initially on board with the team going after Lewis primarily because of his age and the exorbitant price tag he comes with. Plus, his celebrity status would seemingly add to the circus atmosphere already surrounding this team. But as the days have passed since the end of the season and the more the Cowboys talked (and said nothing) and the more others haven’t talked, I’m now convinced getting Lewis is a must, especially if the team decides to keep Owens on the roster.
Right now, Owens is the biggest, baddest and most dominant personality in the Cowboys locker room and it’s not even close. The scope of his power and influence goes unchallenged.
Now I don’t believe Owens is the antichrist and the source of all that ills the Cowboys. Jones gave you a little insight into his opinion on the subject when he tried to bring in Reeves to help oversee the Cowboys offense in addition to helping Phillips bring some discipline to the organization.
And Owens’ mouth had little to do with Romo’s penchant for turnovers and poor play in December or the offensive line breakdowns.
Still, the lack of leaders can’t be overlooked. Safety and special teams ace Keith Davis is arguably the team’s best leader. He talks the talk and walks the walk and will challenge anyone at any time.
Ask rookie tight end Martellus Bennett.
But Davis’ sphere of influence is too small. He is a primarily a special teamer and he might not be back next year.
Romo is the one who should be the team’s undisputed leader but, according to teammates, he is too non-confrontational to take on Owens.
That’s why the Cowboys need to bring another big dog into the locker room. That’s why they need Lewis. He will give the players someone else to look up to, someone else to follow. And if need be, he would provide the hammer to take back control of the locker room.
Financially speaking, it’s going to take a pretty penny to get Lewis out of Baltimore, but it won’t be impossible. The Ravens are unlikely to put the franchise tag on him and guarantee him $11.3 million next year. But the Ravens have said they are ready to pay a lot of money to keep Lewis.
But the facts are he is open to coming to the Cowboys. And it’s an idea that is growing legs within the Cowboys complex. Of course it will take some salary-cap magic. The key is how many years and trying to make it work in an unfavorable economic climate.
And then there’s the little matter of the Cowboys already making the signing of DeMarcus Ware to a contract extension their first priority of the off-season. Ware will surely get the richest contract in team history and one of the richest in NFL history.
But the Cowboys have worked magic before. And as of now, this is something the Cowboys must do to win back the fans and generate some excitement for next season. It’s especially necessary if they choose to bring back Owens.
The Cowboys promised change in hopes of finally and desperately making a Super Bowl run next season or at least a playoff win. Well, if the Cowboys want change the fans can believe in, then they need to sign Ray Lewis for 2010.