Commentary

Time to let Terence Newman go?

Cowboys need to send a message about underachieving veteran players

Updated: March 8, 2012, 11:29 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

Terence Newman is the one player most Dallas Cowboys fans want to see gone. Last summer, during the hurried free-agency period, the Cowboys failed to sign Nnamdi Asomugha as a possible replacement, though team officials, specifically Jerry Jones, say Newman would have stayed.

After the 2011 season -- when Newman led the team with four pass interference penalties, allowed 329 yards-after-catch and had 77 opposing quarterback targets -- it might finally be time for the Cowboys to let him go.

From a financial standpoint, the Cowboys can save as much as $6 million by releasing Newman next week when the free-agency period starts Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeTerence Newman
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireThe Cowboys may finally be ready to move on from cornerback Terence Newman's inconsistent play.

On the field, Newman played well early and lost confidence as the season progressed. He played more snaps than any corner on the team, 829, allowed the fifth most YAC in the NFL and was tied for fifth in pass interference calls. Asomugha, by the way, was flagged three times for PIs.

Newman was beaten down the field 44 times, according to Stats LLC, giving up three touchdowns.

"I think it's very difficult for people who don't know the calls and don't know what the specific coverages are and what the responsibilities are to say, 'Oh, he got beat because he was the closest to the guy running for a touchdown,'" Jason Garrett said without specifically talking about Stats or any other service that rates players. "I don't think that's a good way to evaluate it."

Jones wouldn't endorse Newman's return at the Senior Bowl when asked about the veteran's status. The Cowboys are taking a cautious approach with Newman because they don't have to cut him now.

But next week, something has to happen. A message needs to be sent to the rest of the team and to an irked fan base that considering the lack of playoff success, underachieving veteran players are no longer welcome.

Newman will be 34 when the season starts and after nine seasons, it might be time to say good-bye.

He's battled through nagging injuries over the years, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan hinted at one during the late stages of the 2011 season.

The Cowboys will target a younger cornerback in free agency to join Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. If one can't be found, the draft is another option.

"He did a lot of good things and other times it wasn't quite as good," Garrett said. "But that's like a lot of our team was."

Now to the mail:

Q: Why are so many Cowboys fans anxious to cut Keith Brooking? Sure, he's old, but he had a fair amount of tackles last season considering he wasn't on the field for every defensive snap. Is it just me or are Dallas fans extremely quick to turn on players who are past their prime? -- Austin (Bangor, Maine)

A: A couple of things here: (1) Brooking is past his prime. Why keep him around? (2) He got reduced snaps because he's past his prime. (3) You said he's old. You're right. Brooking will turn 37 in October. You really want him running around on the football field instead of a younger player with some upside?

Q: Do you think there is any real chance of the Cowboys signing Mario Williams? -- Wes Harbuck (Lubbock, Texas)

A: I've heard the rumblings about Mario Williams, but money and fit are the issues. DeMarcus Ware is the NFL's highest paid outside linebacker, based on average salary at $13 million a season. Does Williams want that? It's hard to say he wants to come up shorter than Ware's average salary. Williams moved from defensive end to outside linebacker last season for Wade Phillips in Houston. How does Williams fit in the 3-4 for Rob Ryan? It would be interesting to see Williams play outside linebacker for Ryan. The Cowboys can rescind the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer or trade him to another team should Williams sign. As of now, I doubt it will happen.

Q: Calvin, do you see the Cowboys adding a free-agent tight end or drafting one this year? -- Jose Munoz (Reedley, Calif).

A: Jason Witten and John Phillips are the tight ends contractually bound for the 2012 season. Martellus Bennett is planning on going to another team. Bennett needs a fresh start. The Cowboys are not going to use a high draft pick or spend lots of money in free agency on a tight end. If anything, finding a tight end in Round 6-7 or a veteran who can come cheaply is the way to go.

Q: Who would you draft if you were the Cowboys, assuming both are available: Dre Kirkpatrick or Dave DeCastro? -- Lewis (Windsor, Ontario)

A: Lewis, my man, what's going on? I would say Kirpatrick isn't coming to the Cowboys. As talented as he is, that drug charge, though it was dropped, raised all sorts of red flags at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys are not messing around with players who have dealt with off-the-field problems as long as Jason Garrett is the coach. DeCastro is the best guard in the draft, and while Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler's stock is rising, the Stanford guard is the way to go.

Q: Calvin, is it realistic to think the Cowboys are only one or two players away from being a Super Bowl contender? If so where are the Cowboys most glaring needs? I know about the secondary and the interior of the offensive line. Is there somewhere else maybe the 'Boys could use some help? -- Jeremiah Chavez (Albuquerque, N.M.)

A: The Cowboys are not one or two players away from being a Super Bowl contender. The team has plenty of talent, especially on offense, but the weaknesses you mentioned, secondary and interior offensive line, are major. The Cowboys need more playmakers on defense, and adding a corner and linebacker might help in that area. If the Cowboys lose wide receiver Laurent Robinson, the depth at wideout becomes bad. There are numerous holes on the team.

Q: If Robert Griffin III goes to the Redskins, will the Cowboys have the worst quarterback in the NFC East? -- Matt Dennis (Austin, Texas)

A: Matt, you feeling OK? Seriously? Tony Romo is the second best quarterback in the division behind Eli Manning. Michael Vick is third and whoever Washington brings in will be fourth, unless Peyton Manning goes to D.C.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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