I am not Patrick Crayton's biggest fan, either on or off of the field, but I must admit that my reaction to rumors this past week that the Cowboys were looking hard for a taker for Crayton was quite similar to what I heard from our local media contingent. On the field, it just doesn't seem to make sense. Kevin Ogletree might be able to replace what Crayton offers the offense, but I find it hard to believe that the coaches are terribly confident that he can.
In a vacuum, trading an expensive fourth receiver when you have two stars in the making and whatever Roy Williams is in front of him and a couple of somewhat interesting guys behind him does make sense. This isn't a vacuum, though. Crayton is one of three guys - the others being pro bowlers Jason Witten and Miles Austin - with whom Tony Romo has an established chemistry. Crayton knows how make himself invisible to zone defenders, and Romo knows how to find him. As many discussed at the time, John Phillips' injury meant a much higher likelihood of loads of 3+ receiver sets, so the third guy can easily be thought of as a part-time starter.
He isn't what I would consider a dynamic punt returner, but what if Dez Bryant can't or doesn't need to handle returns for some period this season? Who takes over that job? Before you answer, I will give my response: I don't trust him. Terence Newman isn't as good at it as we had hoped, and he's all but been ruled out from returning regularly anyway. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah looks pretty salty, but things are still happening really quickly for him and, as I said, I don't trust him yet.
If the primary motivation for this move was to save the $2 million, I'm generally softer on this kind of thing than many, but I find it unacceptable here. Jerry can pay Crayton, and whatever TINSTAAFL warnings the Cowboys may offer about this uncapped year, they ring pretty hollow for something like a two million dollar contract when the team has already cut quite a bit of salary this offseason. The offensive line and a rugged schedule look to be prime culprits in keeping this team from a super bowl, but a scenario where an injury to Austin or Bryant and a lack of a second or third receiver as reliable as Crayton hinders this offense greatly is quite realistic. If the Cowboys are championship contenders, it's foolish to take that risk this season.
But that's if this is all about saving money. Those of us without extensive connections on the Cowboys coaching staff (so, like, pretty much everyone on the planet) can't be sure that Crayton's performance behind closed doors isn't the primary cause for this move. Rumors persisted this week that there were people on the coaching staff who had just had it with Crayton. If that is truly the case, if his attitude is that toxic, I'm fine with getting him out of here. He will be playing at least early behind Austin, Dez Bryant and Williams, so there is the potential for a lot of distracting chirping during the week.
Crayton doesn't have Terrell Owens' charisma, but now is not the time for bad influences in receivers and offensive meetings. If that is the primary reason he's been dumped, fine. If not, Jerry has once again stuck his neck out over a chopping block, just begging for more questions about his ability to run football operations.