- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

With the free agent signing period a week away, Emmitt Smith is still a Cowboy. And surprisingly, the nearly 34-year-old halfback might remain in Dallas after all.
Sources said new coach Bill Parcells doesn't want the NFL's all-time leading rusher to be part of his rebuilding of the fabled franchise whose 15-33 record the last three years was worse than any rival's except Detroit.
However, Parcells isn't making the decision; owner Jerry Jones is. And Jones is having a tough time dealing with the idea of Smith playing elsewhere, even if his likely backup role wouldn't come close to matching his $7million salary. Dallas is $11million under the $75million salary cap.
"Emmitt is still healthy, so it's not like … the decision was made for us like with Troy [Aikman] or Michael [Irvin]," said Jones, referring to the medically mandated retirements of the other members of the Three Amigos who paced the Cowboys to Super Bowl titles after the 1992, 1993 and 1995 seasons. "We are dealing with the greatest rusher of all time, an individual [who] marks the vision of the Cowboys during the last 13 years where we have won more world championships than any other team. We're dealing with that kind of respect."
Jones and Smith talked for 3 hours at the owner's house Monday and will meet again next week before Jones makes his decision. Smith thinks he can still start, but after producing 975 yards (his fewest since his rookie year of 1990) and a 3.8 average (second-worst of his 13-year career) in 2002, there aren't likely to be many suitors if he is cut by Dallas. The most likely possibility, Carolina, is focusing on the younger Stephen Davis, who's on the verge of being waived by Washington.
So if Jones and Smith can work out a deal to lower the latter's base salary to about $1million, he could remain a Cowboy. Dallas won't be a contender this season, but Smith has three Super Bowl rings and if he's going to be a backup, why go elsewhere?
Of course, the knowledge that Parcells doesn't want him could prompt the proud Smith to reconsider his plans to play in 2003 and take the all-time record into retirement.
Tuna needs 'Chick History says Parcells won't prosper without New England coach Bill Belichick by his side. Belichick was the linebackers coach (1983-84) or defensive coordinator (1985-90) during Parcells' eight years with the New York Giants (85-52-1, two Super Bowl championships). After two years off, Parcells moved to New England in 1993 and went 21-28 before Belichick fired as Cleveland's coach returned as Parcells' defensive coordinator in 1996. New England promptly went to the Super Bowl.
The duo jumped to the woebegone Jets in 1997 and went 30-20 in three years before Parcells retired again. So Parcells is 128-78-1 with Belichick, 21-28 (with no playoff victories) without him. Meanwhile, Belichick is 65-68 with a Super Bowl title without Parcells.
No tag sale What is the NFL's franchise player designation coming to?
Buffalo tagged receiver Peerless Price after he had his first big season. Jacksonville and New England franchised safeties Donovin Darius and Tebucky Jones, respectively. Minnesota tagged tight end Jim Kleinsasser and Carolina did the same with punter Todd Sauerbrun. Baltimore cornerback Chris McAlister is hardly the franchise player on a roster that includes stellar linebackers Ray Lewis and Peter Boulware. And while St. Louis' Orlando Pace is a premier offensive tackle, Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner are the Rams.
And then there's Atlanta's Keith Brooking. The Falcons' most important player after star quarterback Michael Vick, Brooking wasn't tagged because the team thought it could keep him without the designation. Seems they were right. ESPN.com reported last night that the 27-year-old Pro Bowl linebacker had agreed to a six-year deal worth approximately $36million including a $10million signing bonus.
Brooking, a Georgia native who attended Georgia Tech, wanted to stay home.
"My agent [Pat Dye Jr.] and I have been very reasonable," Brooking said before apparently agreeing to terms. "We've looked at it in a realistic way as far as the other linebackers in the league. What I'm asking for is not ridiculous. The Falcons know that."


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