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Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Jones 'ready to go' with current safeties

By Tim MacMahon
ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Wednesday that he doesn't intend to pursue a safety in free agency.

Jones declined to comment specifically about O.J. Atogwe, who became an unrestricted free agent at midnight when the St. Louis Rams declined to re-tender him at $6.976 million. The Cowboys, who released starting free safety Ken Hamlin earlier this offseason, were among the teams speculated as a potential destination for Atogwe.

"I'm ready to go into our season with the safeties that we have," Jones said during an organized team activity workout in front of a crowd of 2,000 at Cowboys Stadium. "That might answer your question."

The Cowboys are confident that converted cornerback Alan Ball is a suitable replacement for Hamlin. Ball filled in as the starter for four games that Hamlin missed with a high ankle sprain last season. The Cowboys' front office and coaching staff did not believe that there was a dropoff.

Ball, a seventh-round pick in 2007, is considered an upgrade over Hamlin in coverage. His size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) is a concern, but coach Wade Phillips said the team's free safety doesn't need to be involved as much in run support because the front seven is so dominant.

Mike Hamlin, a fifth-round pick in 2009, will also be given a chance to compete for playing time. He's bigger than Ball, and the Cowboys are intrigued by his playmaking ability, as evidenced by his school-record 14 interceptions at Clemson.

The Cowboys also believe that fourth-round pick Akwasi Owusu-Ansah has potential to develop into a starter. Owusu-Ansah, who split time between cornerback and safety at Division II Indiana (Pa.), is a project who isn't participating in offseason workouts while recovering from shoulder surgery.

The Cowboys cut Ken Hamlin before the third season of a six-year, $39 million deal in part because they wanted more playmaking from his position after ranking near the bottom of the league in interceptions the last two seasons. That prompted speculation that the Cowboys could be interested in Atogwe, who has 19 career interceptions and 15 in the last three seasons.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.