SAN ANTONIO -- The easy thing to do when players get cut is to trash their memory, call them no-good slugs who were a waste of money.
But that would be unfair when you look at the production the Cowboys received from Marion Barber, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo. Barber was at one point a huge difference-maker and tone-setter on the offense, even if most of it came before he received his big contract. Davis was dominant in his first couple of seasons and went to three Pro Bowls.
And Colombo might be one of the Cowboys’ better free-agent signings ever.
As much as personnel people get stoked out of hitting home runs in high-priced free agency or high draft picks, they really enjoy it more when they get something from nothing. Many reputations get made on finding jewels like that.
Colombo was a street free agent when he joined the Cowboys in 2005. Chicago gave up on its first-round pick from 2001 because it felt Colombo would never be a player because of a serious knee injury. Bill Parcells, using a theory time-tested by Al Davis and Ron Wolf, wanted to see what Colombo had because of a pedigree. If a guy was once a first-round pick, something had to be there, according to Parcells.
The Cowboys signed Colombo on Nov. 2, 2005, without much fanfare; gave him time to get stronger in the weight room under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek; and by the next season he was the starting right tackle. He started the next 72 games he played, missing seven games in 2009 because of a fractured ankle.
He was rewarded with two contract extensions and he played through a myriad of injuries in addition to the knee problems that cropped up from time to time. It wasn’t always pretty, but Colombo fought. He set a tone in the meeting room and on the field. He was a big part of the player-run practices in May at Southlake’s Dragon Stadium.
But with the click of the send button Thursday, an email officially ended it all for Barber, Davis and Colombo as the Cowboys moved on. There was really nothing surprising about the decisions because of the age and money tied into the three players.
Football can be an exhilarating and cruel business all at the same time.
As the team officially announced the cuts, Tyron Smith was practicing for the first time with all the promise of the No. 9 overall pick. There was no stopping the momentum of a new season on Thursday, just to praise the work of three players that contributed a lot to the Cowboys.
“It’s a short life. It’s a short career,” coach Jason Garrett said in answering a question about Tony Romo earlier in the day. “It’s a great opportunity for us to play and coach in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys. Each and every day you wake up and you try to take full advantage of that.”
One day, maybe five, 10, 15 years from now, it will end for Smith, the first player born in the 1990s to be drafted by the Cowboys, and the NFL life cycle will continue with another first-round pick or free-agent pickup ready to replace him.
“It is difficult,” tight end Jason Witten said. “There’s no getting used to it. There are a lot of guys who aren’t here that had a lot of blood on the wall. They put it out there every day, every Sunday and left everything they had out there on the field. It’s tough, but that’s how this business operates. And you know that but you definitely appreciate all of those guys’ work. It’s unfortunate we didn’t have more success with them.”