America’s Team is known for their great history and the Hall of Famers that made the Dallas Cowboys the King of the 90s, but there have been a lot of poor choices through the history of the franchise. But specifically, as Jerry Jones has owned the team. Jones likes to be in control of most decisions, and because he’s an owner and not a general manager, there are a lot of poor calls that he has made.
The Cowboys have a history of either hanging on to players for too long, or letting them go too soon. Rarely do they ever move on from a player at the right time, which was shocking that they released Dez Bryant this offseason. For once, it seemed like the Cowboys released a player at the right time.
But that doesn’t help make up for all the poor decisions made in the past. A lot of these players were a key part of the success of the team, or were a struggling player that the team needed to move on from. But, sometimes it’s hard to move on from a player. You may hope for the success a player once had, but as age comes along, players struggle.
Then there’s those players that may be too expensive or aren’t playing up to expectations, that still had potential to help the team. Those are even harder because fans have to see a player perform at a high level for another team.
These 20 players made some sort of impact with the team, but unfortunately, the Cowboys either moved on from them too early, or hung on to them for too long.
20 Gave Up: Roy Williams (WR)
Trading for Roy Williams may have been the worst trade in Cowboys history, but it makes it even worse how quickly they moved on from him. Before the 2008 trade deadline, they traded their first and third round draft picks to acquire Roy Williams. Granted, he wasn’t a star, but he wasn’t terrible.
In the two full seasons he played, he caught for at least 500 yards both seasons. He helped allow Tony Romo spread the football out a little bit more.
Even if he wasn’t the most talented, they gave up too much to get him, only to move on two years later.
19 Kept: Jay Ratliff (DT)
Before the present day defensive line, the Cowboys at one point had a talented defensive line, with guys like DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Jay Ratliff. Raliff was an exceptional defensive tackle, as he was able to pressure the quarterback. He was a key part of the interior defensive line.
Through the middle of his career, Ratliff put up 7.5 sacks in one season, and the following season he had six sacks. Ratliff went from his prime, to a quick decline. After the 2011 season, when it was clear his prime passed, the Cowboys should have moved on. They kept him for one more season, when he missed 10 games.
18 Gave Up: Morris Claiborne (CB)
First round draft picks are extremely valuable, especially for the Dallas Cowboys. Since 2011, every Cowboys first round draft pick is still with the team, with the exception of Morris Claiborne. The most bizarre thing, is that Claiborne was the second highest draft pick out of that group.
The problem was, his inability to stay healthy. Even after his best season in 2016, they moved on. They were done dealing with the injuries. But the way it should have went, is the Cowboys should have re-signed him to a one-year deal. A deal for him to prove his worth, and to keep a first round draft pick around. Plus, the Cowboys could have used a veteran cornerback last season.
17 Kept: Quincy Carter (QB)
Before Dak Prescott, before Tony Romo, before Drew Bledsoe, there was; Quincy Carter. Carter was the starting quarterback from 2001 to 2003. The Cowboys have high expectations for their quarterbacks, and Carter was not living up to them. In his first two seasons, he only played 15 games out of a possible 32. He was 6-9 in those games, with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Through his career in Dallas, he finished with a 16-15 record, with 29 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions. Even when he led the Cowboys to a winning season, he played awful.
The Cowboys should have released him after the 2002 season, as he then proved that he was not a future star for the organization.
16 Gave Up: Greg Hardy (DE)
Put aside all the off-field controversy, and look at Greg Hardy as a football player. The Cowboys have employed many players who have had their issues, and Hardy was just another one on the list. In Hardy’s first season as a Cowboy, he finished with 23 total tackles and six sacks, plus an interception, while missing four games.
The numbers weren’t as pretty as they were in Carolina, but for a team in desperate need of a pass rusher, Hardy would have been worth keeping. They should have at least gave him one more full season, to show himself and how he would’ve helped that defense.
15 Kept: Marcus Spears (DE)
Despite maybe one player, the Cowboys tried hanging on to as many players as they could for as long as they could, until their defense all would end their careers at once. Marcus Spears was never a great defensive end, but he was serviceable, and for the beginning of his career; reliable.
Spears rarely missed games through the first five years of his career, but after that, he became a backup. He didn’t start in as many games, even went a season without a sack. The Cowboys should have moved on from him a lot earlier than they did, but they didn’t want to take the defense apart.
14 Gave Up: Danny Amendola (WR)
Before Danny Amendola became a Super Bowl champion, and before he played for the St. Louis Rams, he was a part of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys signed Amendola as an undrafted free agent, and he was cut on Hard Knocks. The Cowboys signed him to the practice squad, where he spent his whole rookie season.
Amendola spent some time on a practice squad before he played with the Rams, and later the Patriots. Tom Brady has made Amendola look like a really talented receiver. Amendola could have been the Cowboys present day Cole Beasley. If they had Amendola on this offense, it would be perfect for Dak Prescott.
13 Kept: Felix Jones (RB)
It’s true, Tony Romo went a majority of his career without a legitimate running back. Felix Jones, was one of the weak running backs he played with for a few seasons. Jones wasn’t all that bad, he averaged over four yards a carry at least every season with the Cowboys, except his last season. But, they just weren’t fully utilizing him.
Jones was running the football well, and was a threat in the passing game. He also wasn’t a bad returner. If the Cowboys moved on earlier, they could’ve gotten a decent draft pick in return. After the 2010 season would’ve been perfect, when he finished with a total of over 1,200 yards.
12 Gave Up: Brice Butler (WR)
Change is here, as the Dallas Cowboys switched up their whole wide receiver corps. One departure included losing Brice Butler this past offseason, as he signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Let’s face it, Butler didn’t put up the biggest numbers, but he was Prescott’s long ball threat. W
ithout Dez Bryant, Butler likely would have gotten a lot more targets down the field.
The best part was that because Butler is a low-key player, he was able to get free more. Cornerbacks weren’t really looking out for him. The Cowboys did a great job rebuilding this offense this offseason, but they are going to miss Brice Butler.
11 Kept: Brandon Carr (CB)
It had to happen, it just happened too late. In 2012, Brandon Carr signed a five-year deal worth $50 million with the Dallas Cowboys. And to be honest, it probably haunted them forever. That was really the last big contract they gave a player from another team, and it was a disappointment.
In his first two seasons, he was playing aggressive, but a lot of receivers were still getting past him. Carr continued to struggle until his last season with the Cowboys, where he looked serviceable. The Cowboys should have tried to trade Carr to get rid of the contract.
10 Gave Up: Martellus Bennett (TE)
With Jason Witten as one of their tight ends, there was really no thought of having another franchise tight end. The Cowboys have messed around with tight ends throughout Witten’s career, because he’s always been the starter. But if they kept Martellus Bennett, this would have been a better offense.
Despite Bennett’s personality issues, he’s been really productive in the passing game pretty much everywhere he’s played.
Benett wasn’t getting the targets he has later in his career, so he didn’t seem all that talented. But if they got Bennett more involved, they would have had two starting tight ends.
9 Kept: Orlando Scandrick (CB)
The Cowboys have a young defense, and maybe that’s why Orlando Scandrick requested to be released. For the past nine seasons, Scandrick spent them in Dallas after being selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. But let’s be real, Scandrick wasn’t the cornerback the Cowboys needed throughout those nine seasons.
Scandrick constantly was outrun, outplayed, and dealt with many, many injuries. Maybe it was his leadership that kept him on the team, because his play wasn’t very helpful. The Cowboys should have kept one of the members of the secondary from after the 2016 season, rather than having Scandrick on the roster.
8 Gave Up: Keyshawn Johnson (WR)
Some say that Keyshawn Johnson should have went earlier, but he really should have stayed longer. Johnson wasn’t the star that he was before he came to Dallas, but he was a consistent receiver that was productive. In the two seasons that he was there, he caught for 1,820 yards and recorded 12 touchdown reception. And, he played every game he was there.
At 34 years old, the Cowboys could have got Johnson back for cheaper if they tried, but he made his way back to Carolina to end his career. Not many receivers can say that their last season was as productive as their first.
7 Kept: Drew Bledsoe (QB)
By the time the Dallas Cowboys acquired Drew Bledsoe, he was 33 years old. At that point, it should have been a one-year contract to see what he can do. Prior to coming to the Cowboys, Bledsoe had some good seasons in New England, even leading them to a Super Bowl appearance, but by the time he left, his best days were behind him.
His time in Buffalo was a disappointment, validating the Patriots' decision to move on from him and go to Tom Brady.
In Bledsoe’s first season as a Cowboy, he led the team to a 9-7 record, missing the playoffs. Bledsoe threw 17 interceptions in the season, and then got hurt the following season, which led to the beginning of Tony Romo’s career. The Cowboys should have moved on from Bledsoe after he struggled his first season.
6 Gave Up: DeMarco Murray (RB)
Pretend the Dallas Cowboys never drafted Ezekiel Elliott. Losing DeMarco Murray had huge repercussions for their disastrous 2015 season. A season after he led the NFL in rushing with over 1,800 yards, the Cowboys let him move on to the Philadelphia Eagles. Murray fit perfectly with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, and many believe that was their best opportunity to win a Super Bowl, especially coming off that heartbreaking loss in Green Bay (it was a catch!).
The Cowboys didn’t want to pay the price, even though the price for Zeke may be heftier than it would have been for Murray. This was a player the Cowboys should have invested in, as who knows what the future would have been like if he was still a Cowboy.
5 Kept: Tony Romo (QB)
For 11 seasons, Tony Romo was the backbone to the Dallas Cowboys organization. He was arguably the most talented quarterback in franchise history, despite not succeeding to win a Super Bowl. Romo was known for his heroics by Cowboys fans, but by the rest of the NFL, he was known for his injuries.
After the 2014 season, it looked like Romo could win a Super Bowl in his last few seasons. But in 2015, he suffered a season ending injury early in the year. The Cowboys should’ve moved on from him then. He then got injured again in 2016 training camp, opening the door for Dak Prescott to take the franchise over. However, the Cowboys arguably should've been re-tooling a couple of year prior.
4 Gave Up: Terrell Owens (WR)
If Terrell Owens didn’t have as obnoxious as a personality as he does, maybe the Cowboys would have held on to him a little longer. Everyone believes that just because a wide receiver is a trash talker, means they’re a distraction. But for some time, Owens was Romo’s top target.
Owens finished with over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his three seasons as a Cowboy, and finished with 38 touchdown catches.
He was something special, that unfortunately the Cowboys didn’t want to deal with (every team he played on eventually grew tired of T.O.). Maybe the Cowboys would have won a Super Bowl with Romo if they kept T.O.
3 Kept: Troy Aikman (QB)
If you take a look at the numbers, Tony Romo had much better numbers than Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls. Maybe Aikman is looked at so highly because of his success in the playoffs. The Cowboys made sure they hung on to their Super Bowl winning quarterback for as long as they could, even if he was missing games.
The last three seasons of Aikman’s career, he missed 12 games. The team was still making the playoffs in 1998 and 1999, but they were one and done. It was clear that it was time for Aikman to hang up the strings, or for the Cowboys to force him out.
2 Gave Up: DeMarcus Ware (DE)
It must be crazy to hear that it’s a mistake to move on from a defensive end when he’s 31 years old, but it was a mistake. DeMarcus Ware came off of his first season with less than 10 sacks since his rookie season. It was the first time he’s missed a game his whole career. But that didn’t make him bad.
The Cowboys should have made a one-year deal to let Ware prove he can still play, which he did when he finished with 10 sacks the following season.
If Ware was a part of the 2014 Cowboys, their chances of winning the Super Bowl would have been drastically higher.
1 Kept: Lucky Whitehead (WR)
Who would think that two years would be too long to hold on to a player? Well, after Lucky Whitehead’s rookie season as a returner, it didn’t seem like he was going to mold into a legitimate returner. While he had the speed, his vision was all over the place. And quite frankly, he just wasn’t aggressive enough to really help this special teams unit.
Whitehead also struggled on kickoffs, something that their former returner Dwayne Harris was very good at. After his rookie season, it would have been best to cut ties, that way the Cowboys could have found a returner after the 2015 season.