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Look At Free Agency With A Reasonable Eye

million deal, with only $2.5 million guaranteed, the Cowboys get a linebacker who had 133 tackles last year playing a more exposed strong-side spot in a 4-3. He is a stop-gap linebacker, a younger version of Zach Thomas who can become a bridge to the future next to Bradie James inside. 

  Signing Brooking keeps their options open there since his contract does not mandate he must be a starter. He can be a starter, and likely will, but does not preclude the Cowboys giving Bobby Carpenter a legitimate shot to compete nor drafting an inside linebacker in either the second or third round. The money says that. 

  Plus, he is another good character guy with 11 seasons in the league. 

  So where's the beef here? Unless, of course, you just have to beef. 

  Now for the Roy Williams dilemma. Seems as though he's out of here, one way or another. But doing so means the Cowboys don't have a first- and second-down strong safety. That will become a huge need, as big as the one they now have at defensive end since they could not afford to bring Chris Canty back at $8 million a year, knowing first they must re-sign DeMarcus Ware. 

  They would have done it for $6 million a year, but $8 million was a little too rich for their blood for a mere run stopper, once again supporting my theory on free agency and the salary cap that you can't put a steak on every plate. And remember, if Williams is traded or released, that's another $4.4 million of dead money against the cap, which would run the total, including Johnson and Henry, to $7.23 million - reducing the Cowboys' cap from the $127 million with which everyone else can play to $120 million. 

  And that brings us to Kitna. More hand-wringing I detect. Too old. Provides no competition for Romo. Lacks mobility. 

  Look - again - here is what provides no competition for Romo: A seven year, $72 million contract with $30 million guaranteed. The money says that. You don't hand a quarterback that kind of money and think he's going to feel threatened by some Chris Simms. You kidding me? Don't fool yourself. 

  Plus, quarterbacks with only 39 NFL starts can't sit idly by in training camp and practice while the young backup takes necessary snaps to get better. No can do.  

  That guy has to be accomplished, have seen everything that needs to be seen, so that in a minute's notice he's ready to play with little to no preparation. That's the ideal backup. 

  That's Kitna, plus he's only one season removed from throwing for 4,000 yards, a feat by the way, no matter the circumstances, accomplished only once in the 49-year history of the Dallas Cowboys, and by, uh, Romo, heading into that 2007 season with only 10 starts under his NFL belt. Also, don't worry about his back.  

  Kitna checked out fine, and evidently putting him on IR after four games last year was just a way to get the veteran out of the way. 

  And the best part? He understands his role, and even said so himself, knowing if he was the starter he wouldn't want the backup trying to squeeze him out of a job.  

  That's just not the way this position works. This isn't high school, you know. 

  Just remember, if you liked adding two first-round picks to this team last year, if you like the idea of signing DeMarcus Ware to a long-term extension, if you liked the idea of re-signing your own, the likes of Romo and James and Jason Witten and Marion Barber and Andre Gurode and Marc Colombo and Flozell Adams and Terrell Owens (at the time) and Terence Newman and Jay Ratliff and Hamlin and Williams and Patrick Crayton and Mat McBriar and even L.P. Ladouceur and doing the sign-and-trade for the other Roy Williams and bringing in Leonard Davis - an exhausting and expensive list - then there is a price to pay in the future. 

  You can't spend your money frivolously on some Lewis (although no one else seems to be doing so, either) or buying T. J. Houshmandzadeh (a second receiver) or Dan Orvlosky (three years, $9.15 million, you kidding me, for a backup with little experience?). 

  And you certainly can't throw $100 million over seven years around for Albert Haynesworth if you got a Ware to sign. By

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