Commentary

Big spending doesn't translate on field

Frugal Cowboys are atop NFC East; meanwhile, big-spending Redskins struggle

Updated: November 21, 2009, 6:27 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- On his weekly radio show, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones called Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder brilliant.

Maybe Jones was being nice, but the business of football has gone in opposite directions for these two in 2009.

On Sunday, the Redskins will visit Cowboys Stadium for the first time, with a chance -- a slim one -- to somehow salvage their season.

[+] EnlargeAlbert Haynesworth
Rich Kane/Icon SMIAlbert Haynesworth has made an impact for the Redskins, but at 3-6 was $100 million worth it?
The Redskins were big spenders in the offseason with the goal of challenging for the NFC East title and making a deep run into the playoffs. Washington signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency for one of the richest contracts in league history -- seven years for $100 million, with $41 million guaranteed.

Washington also signed guard Derrick Dockery, who was cut by the Buffalo Bills, for five years at $26.5 million. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall was retained with a six-year deal worth $54 million, $22.5 million guaranteed.

All this has gotten the Redskins is a 3-6 record, and put coach Jim Zorn in the dangerous position of possibly getting fired. It's been so bad in D.C. that Zorn was stripped of his play-calling duties.

"If we were just starting the season, I would've never predicted this," Zorn said in a conference call with reporters this week. "It doesn't surprise me now because we're living it."

In the past, the Cowboys were big spenders in free agency. This spring, however, the Cowboys were frugal.

The Cowboys signed inside linebacker Keith Brooking as a free agent from Atlanta for three years and $6 million. Safety Gerald Sensabaugh was picked up in free agency as well and signed a one-year deal for $1.75 million.

Jones, tired of the locker room distraction known as Terrell Owens, elected to cut the wide receiver and take a $9 million cap hit.

All this has done is keep coach Wade Phillips off the hot seat, at least for now, and push the team into first place in the NFC East with a 6-3 mark.

[+] EnlargeKeith Brooking
AP Photo/LM OteroAt 3 years and $6 million, the Cowboys are certainly getting their money's worth from Keith Brooking.
"The Brooking [deal] may be the best thing that we did," Jones said. "Right there with it is [rookie kicker David] Buehler on kickoffs as far as the things that have made an impact out here. Sensabaugh [too], although he had the limited time with the injury."

With seven weeks remaining in the season, what teams do with their money once free agency starts can affect them adversely.

Jones elected not to sign defensive end Chris Canty to a contract. Canty signed a six-year, $42 million deal with the New York Giants. Dallas took a cheaper route and signed Igor Olshansky in free agency for four years and $18 million to play the same position. Olshansky has played every game this season, while injuries have limited Canty to just two games.

"Olshansky relative to Canty, I like that," Jones said as reporters laughed. "In terms of everything, I'm looking at everything. I'm not saying Canty is not everything we thought he was, but Olshansky is everything and more than what we thought he was, and that helped us to be able to do some things with [DeMarcus] Ware and things down the road."

The Cowboys signed Ware, considered one of the best defensive players in the league, to a six-year extension worth $78 million last month.

Snyder, who has spoken to the media just once this season, is asking for patience.

Zorn said the 2009 season has been, and should be, a tough one to live with for the Redskins.

"Being 3-6, it's not a record that just bodes of competitiveness," he said, "but I will tell you, our players have not thrown in the towel. We're just trying to climb our way out of this hole we've dug."

Jones isn't in a hole; he's doing well and didn't spend as much as the Cowboys' old rivals to vault into first place.

"Financially, when you asked me the question about the money, part of it we all know you're going to need it one way or the other," Jones said. "That is if you can exercise any resourcefulness relative to cap managing or dollars."

Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at calvin.watkins@espn3.com.

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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