Cowboys release Allen to avoid paying $2M bonus

Updated: March 21, 2006, 11:22 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Larry Allen

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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press