Based on the Cowboys' own stated preferences, plus the barometer that is the open market, Stephen Bowen was the most valuable of all three of the team's free agent defensive ends this offseason.
The Cowboys first tried to sign the home-grown former undrafted Bowen to a long-term contract, but he got out of their price range and inked a five-year, $27.5 million deal with the Redskins on July 29, and will be making his return to North Texas on Monday night.
The team turned its attention to bringing back Marcus Spears and Jason Hatcher, whose respective deals came in at five years and $19.2 million for Spears, and three years, $6 million for Hatcher. The club also signed 10th-year pro Kenyon Coleman for a one-year deal near the veteran minimum.
Bowen had started for the Cowboys the final eight games of 2010 after Spears suffered a season-ending calf injury.
"We understand the nature of the NFL," Jason Garrett said. "Unfortunately when you have players that people around the league like, it's hard to keep them all, and Stephen Bowen is certainly one of those guys. (He) played very well for us in that role the last half of the year, but certainly was a strong contributor prior to that, too, and he's a very good run defender, a very good pass rusher and he's the kind of guy you want on your team. We certainly were trying to keep him, but the business of the NFL sometimes gets involved and it's hard to keep everybody.
"He certainly makes Washington better. I know just the kind of person he is and the kind of player he is, that he makes them better."
While Bowen might be the best player to have gotten away from the Cowboys in some time, they're not exactly missing him just yet. The Cowboys are second in the league in defending the run (3.0 yards per carry), and first in sacks, with 10, including a couple by Hatcher.
Bowen's former teammates all say they're happy for him.
"I wish he was still here," DeMarcus Ware said. "He's a great friend of mine, we've been through a lot, and now it's weird we're on the rival teams . . . it's a great thing for him, he worked hard when he was a Cowboy. He deserves to be more stable in Washington."
Bowen has three tackles, including one for loss, plus a sack and two pressures in his first two games as a Redskin.
He'll play his third in a familiar setting, Cowboys Stadium, trying to make his former team begin to regret the fact he got away.
"It'll be different, but we got one goal, that's to come out with the win," Bowen said Wednesday. "I'm real excited to get down there and prove a point."