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Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Should Cowboys be interested in Ellis?

By Tim MacMahon

Jerry Jones considers the return of Greg Ellis to Valley Ranch a realistic possibility.

We don’t know whether Jerry was just being nice to a former Cowboys captain or whether he’d seriously consider bringing Ellis back. We can debate whether it would be a wise move.

Let’s take Ellis at his word (or his agent’s, at least) that he’d be willing to accept a reserve role. That’s something he squawked about his last few years with the Cowboys, but he has to understand that his career is in its twilight after being released by the Raiders. And there’s no question that Anthony Spencer, arguably the Cowboys’ most dominant player down the stretch last season, is a legit starter with Pro Bowl potential.

The Cowboys have to answer two questions regarding Ellis: Could he help them? Would his contributions be worth possibly stunting the development of 2009 fourth-round picks Victor Butler and Brandon Williams?

The doctors would have to help with the first question after Ellis dealt with knee and shoulder problems last season. When healthy, he’s still an effective pass rusher, leading the Raiders with seven sacks last season. The Cowboys could definitely use a situational pass rusher to give Spencer an occasional breather and maximize the effectiveness of the Wade Phillips’ 3-3 nickel package that creates confusion with three edge rushers. But a backup linebacker who doesn’t play special teams creates strain on the 45-man gameday roster.

The hope was that Butler or Williams would seize that role as rookies. That didn’t happen. Williams, who had a slight edge after training camp, spent the season on injured reserve after tearing up his knee during the preseason. Butler showed flashes in limited playing time, but he didn’t earn the coaches’ trust.

My hunch is that the Cowboys will want time to evaluate the young outside linebackers before seriously considering Ellis. There's no reason to hurry to bring in a potential progress stopper.