Owens, Williams Can Only Blame Themselves

will drink his Kool-Aid.

But see, unlike Roy's release for basically minimum-wage production, T.O.'s is debatable.

Nevertheless, the reason neither is here today is the same:

To me, money.

Roy, paid an $11.1 million signing bonus that summer of '06, lost his incentive to excel. He was never the same player, starting that very season, one former coach telling me signing Williams to that extension a season before his contract expired was the worst thing the Cowboys did.

He'll never admit it, preferring to blame scheme or where he was lined up, but he became fat (figuratively) and happy, never again that guy who would light up a ball carrier with what Larry Lacewell once described as "suddenness." What good is a strong safety susceptible in coverage who has lost his passion to tackle, his worst offense since Lacewell was the one who told me when Bill Parcells moved this team into a 3-4 defense, the strong safety would be the key to stopping the run, and in this gap-responsible defense, if everyone did what they were supposed to do in the front seven, the last gap would belong to the strong safety?

The thought-to-be perfect plan turned imperfect by a safety gone soft.

Be interesting to see where he lands and for what, that is if he lands, although at least he has going on just 29 to his advantage.

Now then, Owens. If you think about it, what caused things to sour in San Francisco? Money. He wanted more than the Niners were willing to give him, and realized he needed to bully his way out of town to get his.

Philadelphia? Money again, realizing the Eagles never were going to pick up, what was it, that $13 million roster bonus after his second year, so again, he bullied his way right into suspension and then off the team after a rift-free first year.

So the Cowboys did a real clever thing when they signed him on March 18, 2006, to that three-year, $25 million deal. They only gave him $5 million up front. He had to work, ostensibly behave, even with Parcells around, to earn the $5 million base that year. Do that, and he makes another $3 million roster bonus in 2007, which he did. Do that again, and there was another $3 million roster bonus due in June of '08. He had his best season.

What was the behavioral carrot? Money.

But with two mostly smooth seasons on the record, save the overdose and bike-riding incidents, the Cowboys decided to sign Owens to a three-year extension, thus giving him a four-year deal. And while there were a few roster bonuses included, the $3.1 million due June 3 of this year was minimized once they handed him the $12.9 million signing bonus last year.

He had his money this time. He grew comfortable. The system provided that since who in their right mind was going to pay even a productive receiver $13.73 million for one year's work and then take a $9.675 million hit against the cap the next year if he was released?

So again, to me, Owens felt empowered to do and say whatever. What were the Cowboys going to do if they didn't like it, cut him? He had his money.

Maybe I've oversimplified all this. Sounds as though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might think differently, having told the NFL Network Thursday from Florida when asked if Owen's behavior had anything to do with his release, "I think that's the easy place to go because of his personality and because of the visibility, but that's too easy. If it would have been that easy, that would have been a decision that I would have made 60 or 90 days ago. That is just not a part of why I ultimately made the decision."

Evidently, Jones did not just toss a coin on this decision one lonely night in his office. He talked to a whole lot of people is my understanding. He asked a whole lot of talent evaluators. And while Owens' irritating ways and commanding media presence no doubt weighed in here, that wasn't the whole enchilada.

If the Cowboys were going to turn this team over to Romo, then Owens had to go. They worried his skills might be declining, and like a true wide receiver, he would have been the last to admit that - or know. And the Cowboys

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