- Calvin Watkins, ESPN.com
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The favorite receiver everybody loves to hate might return in 2011.
Roy Williams is a man the Cowboys gave up three draft picks for before signing him to a five-year contract extension worth $45 million in October 2008.
But each year he's been with the Cowboys it seems the team doesn't want to use him. His availability in the game plan decreased in the last few weeks of the 2010 season due to an injured groin and a lack of trust in his abilities.
It's really a shame because this trade is looking like one of the worst in franchise history. Williams' status with the team, however, is secure on three fronts: money, lack of a No. 3 receiver and Dez Bryant.
If the Cowboys release Williams, it's a $12.9 million cap hit. That's a large sum of money to absorb for a player not participating for you.
Bryant had a fantastic rookie season before suffering a fractured ankle at Indianapolis on Dec. 5. Bryant, however, had some problems in grasping the playbook and staying healthy. He battled nagging injuries most of the year, which could be attributed to him not playing in nearly a year due to his suspension in college, before his season ended early.
And say you do let Williams go. Who is the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver? Sam Hurd? He wants to be a receiver full-time, and the team values him more on special teams. Kevin Ogletree? He moved up the depth chart in Jason Garrett's mind as the season progressed but didn't do enough to leave you with an impression.
A receiving corps of Austin, Williams and Bryant looks better than Austin, Bryant and ???
If the Cowboys are going to forge past their 6-10 record, they need dependable playmakers on the field. The Cowboys have gotten away with using Jason Witten (league-leading 38 fourth-quarter catches last year) and Austin (team-leading 1,041 receiving yards) as the primary receiving threats. If you add Bryant's emerging talents, then the Cowboys should have an outstanding passing game.
Which brings us to Williams. If he's used the right way, and he wasn't late in the season, he can become a productive member of this team. Williams had five touchdowns the first five weeks of the season and none the rest of the way.
Garrett was irked by some comments Williams made about the direction of the offense and the two had a chat about it in the last week of the regular season. It appears Garrett and Williams are on the same page now.
Then, of course, there was that costly fumble against New Orleans on Thanksgiving Day that eventually cost the Cowboys a victory.
One thing appears certain: The Cowboys need Williams because he's stable and they can't afford to take the financial hit.
So if you want Williams to be released, it might not happen.
Now to the mail.
Q: Do you think the Cowboys will get a chance at Raiders free agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha? -- Daniel Ciccarone (Eagleville, Pa.)
A: I doubt it. Later on in the mailbag, we'll address Terence Newman's status with the club. Asomugha will command a big-money contract. It could average close to $9 million a season, and that's nearly what the Cowboys are paying Newman. Asomugha would be a fantastic pickup, but Jerry Jones said during the Super Bowl he's hopeful Mike Jenkins and Newman can return to their 2009 Pro Bowl form.
Q: I'm still on the fence about the offensive line. To me, they just seem old and don't pack as much punch as they did one or two seasons ago. I think Free, Kosier and Gurode have earned the right to stay. Colombo could be replaced. But how do you see Jerry dealing with this? Do you think he'll go to the draft? Are there any worthy offensive linemen out there in free agency? -- Bo (Minnesota)
A: The left side of the offensive line is unsettled with the pending free agency of left tackle Doug Free and left guard Kyle Kosier. It appears the Cowboys want to keep Free. As for Kosier, we're not sure. He's in his 30s and there might be a better, younger solution out there. The right side had its issues in Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis. Colombo is a question mark regarding his status for 2011 due to health reasons. Davis was benched earlier in the season but bounced back nicely the rest of the way. If you can find a quality tackle in the draft, then get him. As for free agency, there are plenty of vets on the market, but here are two names worth looking at if they become unrestricted free agents: Justin Blalock and Nick Cole.
Q: Why don't they give Stephen McGee more of a chance at quarterback? I think in his limited opportunities he has shown very "smart" football skills. By this I mean he seems to know when to get rid of the ball out of bounds, just to throw it away, or when to take off scrambling, which he did very well in his last showing. I am a Tony Romo fan and I even like Kitna. ... However, McGee is a little bigger quarterback who has some legs and smarts, and many of the passes he missed were more of a timing thing. He can see over the line a little better, where Romo has made many mistakes in the same circumstances which I think should be attributed to his size. I just think given the opportunity, he could be the QB we are looking for to take us to the February game. If not this year but in the near future. -- Charlie Brown (Mountain View, Wyo.)
A: Charlie, I thought the team waited too long to see what it had in McGee last year. That's nothing against Jon Kitna, but at some point you need to view the younger players. McGee looked good down the stretch, especially late in games, and almost won the Arizona game on Christmas night. It will be interesting to see how much he plays in the preseason and if he can challenge Kitna for the No. 2 job. Not sure if McGee is ready to take over for Kitna, but this is an important year for him in regards to his development as a quarterback.
Q: Calvin, I respect your opinion. Please tell me why the heck Dave Campo is still employed in this organization? He clearly needs to go, no excuses. -- Anthony Varrone (Jacksonville, Fla.)
A: I guess you didn't like Campo's work in Jacksonville? It's easy to blame the coaches when things go wrong in the secondary. The safety play wasn't very good for the bulk of the year and the cornerbacks were inconsistent. It's amazing when you think about the talent the Cowboys have in the secondary and how inconsistent it was. Campo is a good coach, but it's clear the Cowboys were looking for his replacement when they offered Ray Horton, the Steelers' secondary coach, a job. Part of the problem with the defensive backs was the lack of a consistent pass rush in 2010. If you get to the quarterback, it takes pressure off the secondary. You can't expect the secondary to cover receivers for an entire play. It's almost impossible. Campo's unit has to perform better in 2011. No doubt.
Q: With the ninth pick, what skill position do the Cowboys draft? If Cam Newton falls to the No. 9 spot, do the Cowboys trade down to get better value? -- Teofilo (Austin, Texas)
A: Stephen Jones said it best the day the team hired Jason Garrett: "Take the best player available." When you're coming off a 6-10 season, you have holes all over the place. If you can get one of those topflight cornerbacks, then do it. If you can get an outstanding pass-rusher to challenge Anthony Spencer, do it. Now if Newton is available, you bypass him. I have nothing against drafting a quarterback, yet it's clear Tony Romo isn't going anywhere. I wouldn't trade down either. Get the best player for your team at No. 9.
Q: With the emergence of Josh Brent, is there a belief in the organization that he could become the starting nose tackle next year and move Ratliff out to defensive end? I have always thought he would be even more disruptive if he was working a little more in space. -- Colin (Redding, Conn.)
A: I agree it would be nice to see Jay Ratliff perform with more space off the edge. He's still an excellent nose tackle, and Rob Ryan shouldn't give up on him. Somehow Ratliff didn't play up to his potential last year, and that needs to be addressed. Brent showed tremendous strides in 2010 and should back up Ratliff in 2011.
Q: In your opinion, which line will have a better 2011, the O-Line or the D-Line? -- Billy Jones (Houston)
A: This is a tough question. One of the toughest of the offseason. The offensive line needs some new faces, at least two new players. It doesn't matter what position it is, but the O-line needs some younger, healthier bodies. The defensive line has some problems with three ends becoming free agents, so the franchise has to do something at that level. The new defensive line coach, Brian Baker, should help the line improve. Julius Peppers loved him when he was in Carolina. I would say to expect the defensive line to improve.
Q: Cal, I think Dallas needs a free safety ... in this draft because we can't have another year of Alan Ball getting beat deep. He is not the answer at free safety. -- Trub (Camden, N.J.)
A: Ball struggled last year. We all know this, but he might return to the team in a backup role. He's very athletic and he did play better toward the end of the season, so there's hope for him. In terms of the draft, two of the better free safeties in this draft are Quinton Carter of Oklahoma and Rahim Moore of UCLA. Those players are not getting first-round projections, so you can probably get one of them in the second day of the draft.
Q: How much is Terence Newman's contract for next season? Cut him. The following question proves why. Will Nnamdi Asomugha's price range be that out of the realm of Jerry Jones' pocket for him not to pay the man to follow in Deion's HOF footsteps? -- Brad (New Orleans)
A: OK, Brad, here's the deal with Newman. He's signed through 2014 and he's scheduled to make $8 million this year. Newman's cap number is $10 million. I think the Cowboys will keep Newman this season. The price tag for Asomugha is too high. There are some quality corners coming out in the draft this spring and you should look at one of them.
Q: If these three players are the best available on the board and they all fit a need, who do the Boys pick? Amukamara CB, Dareus DT, Solder OT? -- Raul (El Paso, Texas)
A: Marcell Dareus won't be around at No. 9. Nate Solder is projected to go later in the first round unless something changes at the combine, so that leaves Prince Amukamara. Yes, he would be a nice pickup at No. 9, unless the Cowboys think the pass rush needs help.
Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.
Mailbag: The Cowboys are unlikely to cut Roy Williams for a variety of reasons.