Commentary

Jones remains patient with free agency

Cowboys owner/GM sees no need to reveal his moves so early in the game

Updated: March 10, 2010, 1:16 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- On Tuesday afternoon, Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones was basking in the glow of a major event from another sport coming to his $1.2 billion palace: a welterweight title boxing match featuring Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey.

Jones is playing the part of a promoter and sharing fist bumps with one in Bob Arum. As far as his NFL team is concerned, Jones is being patient.

The Cowboys have done nothing in the infancy stages of free agency. Their rivals in the NFC East have all made moves.

"I watch keenly what they do," Jones said. "I don't get into or what they're going to do or how they do it. When they add or improve their roster, it gets my attention. We've got to win at least one or two games against those guys, so we keep a close eye on it just like they do on us. As far as feeling like that we're dropping behind, I don't feel that way."

The only player business the Cowboys have conducted involves placing tenders. Of the team's 13 restricted free agents, Dallas placed tenders on 11, signed one to a contract and let another go.

Wide receiver Miles Austin received the highest tender offer: a first-and-third-round tender worth $3.168 million. Jones would not discuss whether contract talks have started with Austin's agent, David Dunn.

It would cost an opposing team two draft picks and an expensive offer sheet to get Austin. The Cowboys would have to match that to retain Austin and would possibly gain two more draft choices if they let him go.

There are two issues regarding Austin's status that could affect the Cowboys. How much do you pay a receiver coming off a Pro Bowl year in which he caught 81 passes for 1,320 yards and a team-leading 11 touchdowns in his first full-time role?

Also, another team could sign Austin by inserting a so-called "poison pill" into the contract, making it difficult for the Cowboys to match. A team could guarantee all of Austin's salary, or parts of it, if he played a certain percentage of plays or games.

"That's always a concern," Jones said. "That's one of the things that need to be addressed in the new collective bargaining agreement."

Jones said those poison pills are intended to help the player but sometimes put teams at a disadvantage.

It would seem Austin will remain with the Cowboys because that's something Jones has said he wants. As far as upgrading the rest of the roster, what the Cowboys did last offseason has given Jones pause.

Dallas upgraded its roster by signing safety Gerald Sensabaugh to replace Roy Williams, Igor Olshansky to replace Chris Canty and Keith Brooking to take the spot of Zach Thomas.

Sensabaugh, Olshansky and Brooking were given high praise by the Cowboys' coaching staff for their work, and their return is expected in 2010. Only Sensabaugh is a restricted free agent, and the Cowboys placed a second-round tender on him. The Cowboys expressed to Sensabaugh that they would like to have him long-term.

Jones doesn't feel he needs to upgrade too much on defense after seeing eight of his 12 draft picks from 2009 come from that side.

The Cowboys are hoping four linebackers (Jason Williams, Victor Butler, Brandon Williams and Stephen Hodge) can make an impact this year. Safety Michael Hamlin showed promise in training camp and the preseason before a broken wrist slowed his progress.

By making decisions early on, Jones said teams show their hand and that's something he's not willing to do at this stage.

So while the fight game invades his stadium this week, he sits back and monitors what's going on around the NFL before making a move.

"You just don't have a time in free agency when you don't have an opportunity to what fits you to help your team," he said. "I haven't experienced it. You're kind of paying a price to push your agenda early, that's pretty obvious and I say that both figuratively and literally. To push the agenda, if you let it come to you, you have the best chance of value for the Cowboys."

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

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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