- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 26, 2011

IRVING, TEXAS (AP) - Before the Dallas Cowboys can start get serious about loading up their roster, they have to get under the salary cap. They got started on that Tuesday by deciding to release several high-priced players.

Running back Marion Barber, receiver Roy Williams, right guard Leonard Davis and kicker Kris Brown were told they would be cut when the league allows that on Thursday, multiple people familiar with the decisions told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had not made any announcements.

The moves save the Cowboys about $16.6 million in cap room. Removing Davis clears $6 million, Williams another $5 million, Barber $4.75 million and Brown $910,000.

Right tackle Marc Colombo said he was told that he, too, could be gone. His departure would free more than $2 million. He also could return at a cheaper rate.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he wanted to break the news to each player himself. He also wanted to do it right away so they wouldn’t bother going to training camp, which opens Wednesday in San Antonio.

Jones arrived at team headquarters about 40 minutes before the official start of the post-lockout flurry of activity and proclaimed that he would clear enough space under the salary cap to sign anyone he wants. He added that, “Before the day is over, we will have contact with any player we have an interest in.”

The Cowboys also are expected to try restructuring the contracts of Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin to clear more room under the cap.

Dallas’ top priority is re-signing left tackle Doug Free. He was among the first players Jones met with Tuesday.

Free became a free agent under the terms of the new labor deal. The Cowboys need him to anchor the left side of the line, or else will have to replace him with top pick Tyron Smith. They’ve been counting on Smith to replace Colombo on the right side.

Thus, Colombo’s departure was somewhat expected. Davis‘ wasn’t, perhaps especially not to him. As he left the facility, Davis said only that he’d met with position coach Hudson Houck.

“If something happens, there’s no hard feelings,” Davis said. “I’m totally good. That’s part of the business.”

Colombo said he expected to find out whether he’s sticking around “in the next day or so.”

“My goal is to play here,” said Colombo, who was among the veterans who helped run offseason practices. “If it doesn’t (happen), it’s been a great six years here with the Dallas Cowboys and I appreciate it.”

Williams‘ Dallas career will be remembered for how much the club gave up to get him in a midseason trade with Detroit in 2008: three picks, including a 2009 first-rounder, plus a $45 million, five-year contract extension.

He and Romo never got in sync and he never became the big-play threat or the first-down machine the Cowboys expected. Over 40 games, he caught 94 passes for 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns. Dallas should be fine with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant as its top receivers.

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