Commentary

Ogletree could move up to No. 3 slot

Lockout brings uncertainty to receiver's role -- and how he will respond

Updated: July 1, 2011, 3:04 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

The uncertainty of the 2011 season has brought speculation regarding what will happen with several players on the Dallas Cowboys' roster.

If you want to discuss which player the lockout affects the most, give wide receiver Kevin Ogletree a look. The Cowboys could release veteran receiver Roy Williams as a cost-saving move and not re-sign free-agent wideout Sam Hurd. It would then elevate Ogletree to the No. 3 receiver on the depth chart.

Yes, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are your starters in 2011 should Williams and Hurd not return. How Ogletree would respond to the increase in playing time isn't known.

"We like Kevin," coach Jason Garrett said in the spring. "He's another one of those guys given the situation that we have on our team with other established players, his opportunities over the last couple of years have been somewhat limited."

[+] EnlargeKevin Ogletree
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireKevin Ogletree could move up the depth chart, but how the receiver would respond is uncertain.

In 2009, Ogletree had his opportunity in New Orleans.

The Cowboys were going to give him significant snaps, and prior to the game owner/general manager Jerry Jones had a long talk with him on the field, telling Ogletree not to mess up this chance.

Consistency is one of Ogletree's biggest problems. Garrett always talks about why guys don't get playing time. If he can't trust you in practice, why should he in a game? Be consistent in practice, and you will do so in a live game.

That night in New Orleans, Ogletree caught two passes -- both in the second half -- for 23 yards. He made a 17-yard reception on a deep ball thrown by Tony Romo.

It was the highlight of Ogletree's rookie season, but that word "consistency" again cropped up in training camp last season. He looked disinterested at times and struggled. The Cowboys were not happy with him and wanted more.

Yet Ogletree made the final 53-man roster and was active the first four games before getting put on the inactive list for the next seven weeks.

Ogletree kept talking about being patient because his time would come -- and it did later in the season. He had three receptions for 34 yards and returned four kickoffs for 81 yards on Dec. 12 against Philadelphia. But Ogletree injured his right big toe in the fourth quarter and didn't return. He would need season-ending surgery.

After two seasons, Ogletree has just 10 career catches and maybe, just maybe, he might get a chance to show what he can do in 2011 if some personnel moves are made.

"He caught the ball and ran with the ball after the catch," Garrett said. "It's some of the things he had shown the year before, so he's one of those guys that needs to continue to develop and take the next step as a player."

Now to the mailbag.

Q: Do you believe that Akwasi Owusu-Ansah or Danny McCray could possibly start at free safety this year for the Cowboys if they don't get one in free agency? -- James (Chesapeake, Va.)

A: I don't think the Cowboys know exactly what they have in Owusu-Ansah, who played only seven games due to injury last year. He has the speed to play free safety and is still developing his skills at reacting to the ball and recognizing routes. McCray didn't get much time at the position, but he seems more ready than Owusu-Ansah. I think the Cowboys want a veteran at either strong or free safety in 2011. If that's the case, then maybe Andrew Sendejo, McCray or Owusu-Ansah will get a chance at free safety. Barry Church is also in the mix, but I'm not sure if he's more of a strong safety.

Q: Could Alex Barron move to guard? He grades out pretty good there. -- Jacob H (Quad Cities, Iowa)

A: Really? Barron a guard? I think after his performance in the season opener at Washington (three holding calls, one that cost the team a game-winning touchdown) his time in Dallas would be done. Besides, he's an unrestricted free agent.

Q: Do you think it is worth the big free-agent splash to throw a ton of money at Nnamdi [Asomugha] considering his age? I personally think an "all in" move like that is appropriate, considering the age of Romo, Witten and Ware. The teams' championship window is closing fast, in my opinion. Do you agree? -- George (Santa Cruz, Calif.)

A: Asomugha is an upgrade at corner, but Jerry Jones has said he expects starters Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins to return to their Pro Bowl levels of two years ago. If you get Asomugha, you gotta pay the man big money. I'm thinking an average of $8 million to $9 million a season. Not sure if the Cowboys want to pay that. Now, in regards to the window closing, I would agree. The team is old at a few positions and needs to get younger. We like what the team did in the draft in finding a younger right tackle (Tyron Smith) and another young inside linebacker (Bruce Carte) for the future to team up with Sean Lee.

Q: If Romo, Ware and others restructure their contracts, would it not make sense to move Newman to free safety with his leadership skills and make a play for Nnamdi, or do we need too much help on the D-line to tie that much money into one player? -- JC (Dallas)

A: Moving Newman to free safety isn't a good move. While he's still pretty fast, I think his age -- he turns 33 in September -- raises some concerns about his long-term ability to play the position. Get younger at the free safety spot, especially if you can find a quality player either in free agency or on the current roster. The salary cap is expected to be at $120 million, and the Cowboys are about $18 million over it. They could release players, which is expected, and restructure the deals of a few others, such as Romo, Witten, Ware and Austin. It would make sense for the front office to do it.

Q: Cal, what are the developmental guys looking like in their workouts this summer? I'm not talking Dez, I mean guys like Danny McCray, Bryan McCann, Kevin Ogletree, Sam Young, Victor Butler, Brandon Williams, Barry Church? -- Brad (home in Dallas, usually in New Orleans)

A: It's hard to say what some of these guys are looking like because the team-controlled workouts are private. We've heard good things about Dez Bryant, from Tony Romo. Ogletree, as you've read above, is recovering from toe surgery. (I hope you read above.) I saw him with Miles Austin at a Mavericks game without a protective boot, so we assume he's on his way to being healthy. McCray and Church are two young players competing for one of two safety spots next season. Young, I thought, should have played toward the end of the year at right tackle. He should be in line for the swing tackle job this year but because he didn't play on the line, I don't know if the team knows what it has in him. McCann is a speedy player who showed promise last season on returns, but he needs more work at corner. I think Mr. Williams needs more work, as does Mr. Butler. This will be interesting seasons for those two linebackers.

Q: In regards to the top NFC East receivers, you think the Cowboys receivers should be ranked third? The Eagles' receivers are soft!!! The Giants' receivers are good, but Miles and Dez are BETTER!!!! Although you write for the 'Boys, you are a hater!! -- Carlius (Virginia)

A: By calling the Eagles' receivers soft, it sounds like you're hating a little bit. I feel DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant form the best trio in the division, maybe in the league. Dez Bryant has the most talent of the Cowboys' corps of wideouts, but he's not polished. Miles Austin, a terrific receiver, isn't as talented as Jackson and Maclin. Roy Williams? Don't get me started on him.

Q: Hi Calvin, with the resurgence of the Rangers and now the Mavericks, do you think it puts the onus back on the Cowboys to get things on track and back to the Super Bowl? Being that Dallas clearly is a football town, how much longer can Jerry and the 'Boys get away with mediocrity. I hope I have the opportunity to hear from you. -- Gordie McKellen (Dallas)

A: The Cowboys always have the highest expectations of any team in this area. Jerry Jones was hoping for a Super Bowl berth this past season and his team went 6-10. Jones still hasn't gotten over it and maybe never will. It forced him to fire his coach, Wade Phillips, and it opened his eyes to what type of team he has. He was in denial about it. Now that he's got Jason Garrett in charge, Jones is hoping a younger coach, with the infusion of younger talent, will get the Cowboys back in Super Bowl contention. I don't believe the Cowboys are Super Bowl contenders right now.

Q: Knowing what we know right now -- who lines up opening day on our offensive line? -- Marie (D.C.)

A: I would say left tackle is Doug Free, left guard is someone else, center is Andre Gurode, right guard is Leonard Davis and right tackle is Tyron Smith. Kyle Kosier is a free agent and I'm not sure if the team can bring him back.

Q: Do you think Dallas will make a change at linebacker? They need to change the offensive line, free safety and strong safety. What's your opinion? -- Adam (Henderson, Nev.)

A: If you're talking about the outside linebackers, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will be there. Spencer had an off year and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he'll make him better. Inside linebacker has Bradie James and Keith Brooking, two veteran players who can still play at a high level. But the Cowboys have two younger products, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, waiting their turn, though Carter is coming off knee surgery.

Q: I'm optimistic for an NFL season. Two quick questions: (1) Will the NFL season still be 16 games and, if more or less, how will it affect the players and teams? (2) Do you see the Cowboys making any moves before the season starts, signing free agents or releasing any from current roster? -- Tyler (Des Moines, Iowa)

A: The owners and players would lose too much money to allow the season to be lost. I do think it will start on time and it will be 16 games. The proposal for an 18-game season doesn't seem to be on the table for this new CBA. In terms of what the team will do when and if the lockout ends, yes, expect plenty of moves. The team will have to get under the salary cap and most likely will release several veterans and then work in free agency to upgrade the roster.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.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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