<
>

Cowboys release Allen to avoid paying $2M bonus

IRVING, Texas -- Larry Allen was the last link to the Dallas Cowboys' glory days -- the final remaining member of their most
recent Super Bowl team and the guy Emmitt Smith ran behind for much
of his NFL-record rushing total.

He also was due $2 million next week and was going to count more
than $7.5 million toward next season's salary cap, both huge
amounts for a 34-year-old left guard whose best days are likely
behind him.

So the Cowboys cut Allen on Tuesday, a move that only was a
surprise because it happened 10 days before the bonus deadline.

Although team owner Jerry Jones left open the possibility of
re-signing Allen, he's a free agent who can sign anywhere he
chooses. Thus, this decision likely cuts ties between the club and
one of the most dominant blockers in NFL history.

"This decision is a tough one for me personally," Jones said
in a statement. "Larry has been the best in pro football for a
long time. His ability and performance set a standard for
excellence at his position in the NFL for many years, and we are
grateful for his contributions to the Dallas Cowboys."

Allen, who also was the final player left to have won a playoff
game with the Cowboys, is going into his 13th season. He'll still
count about $4 million against Dallas' salary cap, but the team
will save the rest.

Allen's agent, Marvin Demoff, did not immediately return a call
to The Associated Press seeking comment.

Offensive line was among Dallas' weaknesses last season, from
not providing enough time for quarterback Drew Bledsoe to not
opening enough holes for running backs. The arrival of Terrell Owens likely makes it even more important for the line to keep
defenders away from Bledsoe.

While Allen wasn't among the biggest offenders, his salary made
him expendable. The Cowboys probably already have his replacement
in Kyle Kosier, a versatile lineman they signed from Detroit at the
start of free agency. Kosier played more guard than tackle in his
career, mostly left guard.

Kosier, however, is no Larry Allen.

Praised by Jones as "a sure-fire Pro Football Hall of Famer,"
Allen matched his size (6-foot-3, 325 pounds) with unbelievable
strength. He bench-pressed more than 700 pounds, making his annual
strength test a must-see event for all his teammates. Plus, he was
agile enough to be a terrific pulling blocker, a nightmare for the
smaller players he often encountered.

Perhaps the best indication of his ability is that Smith gained
a huge chunk of his record total while following ground plowed by
No. 73.

Allen was named All-Pro eight times, including his first seven
as a full-time starter, 1995-2001. After being injured in '02, he
was honored again in '03.

He also was a member of the NFL's all-decade team for the 1990s
as a guard.

Allen made the Pro Bowl in 10 of his 12 seasons in Dallas, the
most by any offensive player in team history and second only to
defensive tackle Bob Lilly's 11 trips. He was chosen at both guard
and tackle, joining guard-tackle Chris Hinton and center-guard
Bruce Matthews as the only offensive linemen ever picked at
multiple spots.

A second-round pick from Sonoma State in 1994, Allen moved into
the starting lineup at right tackle as a rookie. He was the right
guard from 1995-97, then played left tackle in '97 and '98. He was
a stalwart at left guard from '99 through 2005, except for time at
right tackle in '02.

Despite his size and success, two things coach Bill Parcells
usually likes, their relationship was often strained.

They squabbled over where Allen worked out in the offseason -- on
his own, instead of at the team's training facility -- and last
summer Allen failed Parcells' conditioning test at the start of
training camp, causing him to miss about a week of practice.