IRVING, Texas (March 14, 2006) -- The Dallas Cowboys released receiver Keyshawn Johnson, avoiding a $1 million bonus he was due and possibly creating room for Terrell Owens.
Johnson is a favorite of coach Bill Parcells and was only scheduled to make $1.5 million this season. However, he was seeking an extension and a raise, and the Cowboys apparently wanted to keep their options open -- perhaps especially because T.O. is available.
"Keyshawn is one of a handful of the top competitors that have ever played for the Dallas Cowboys," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "The more he was a part of our team, the more we appreciated him as a player."
The tempestuous but talented Owens was released by Philadelphia, making him a free agent. Jones has never shied from big-name players regardless of the cost or risk, and the Eagles have long been wary about their division rivals trying to land him.
The question for Dallas is whether his pass-catching skills are worth whatever other trouble he may cause, especially since the Cowboys are coming off a 9-7 season and likely need more than a big-time receiver to reach the Super Bowl.
Owens and Johnson couldn't share enough catches in the same lineup, and almost certainly would clash in one locker room. If Dallas doesn't get Owens, they'd still need someone like him, a big, sure-handed receiver who can catch passes over the middle. Terry Glenn is the only other accomplished receiver on the Cowboys' roster and he's more of the small, speedy type.
Johnson turns 34 this summer and is coming off a solid season. He led the team in receptions with 71, and had 839 yards and six touchdowns.
He still could be re-signed, possibly even at the higher price he was seeking.
Another intriguing replacement Dallas might consider is Buffalo's Eric Moulds, who had some of his best years playing for Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe when they were teammates from 2002-04. Moulds' personal adviser told The Associated Press on March 13 that the receiver has asked to be traded or released. He has two years left on a contract that's scheduled to pay him more than $7.1 million next season.
Dallas already has missed out on Antwaan Randle El, who signed with Washington, and Brandon Lloyd, who also joined the Redskins in a trade from San Francisco. The 49ers have signed Antonio Bryant, but the Cowboys were unlikely to be interested in someone they gave up on a few years ago after he threw a sweaty jersey at Parcells.
Like Owens now, Johnson came marked "handle with care" when Dallas acquired him from Tampa Bay in a trade for Joey Galloway.
Public perception of Johnson was low because he'd been deactivated the last four games of the 2003 season following a spat with Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, adding to a list of incidents that had him mockingly branded "Me-shawn."
Over two years with the Cowboys, Johnson made only ripples, not waves, and was a solid producer. His 25 receptions on third downs last season were eighth-best in the NFL and several of his touchdowns were game-winners. He never missed a game despite various injuries.
Johnson was the No. 1 overall pick by the New York Jets in 1996. He spent four seasons there and four more in Tampa Bay. After 10 seasons, he's 20th on the career receptions list with 744. He's caught a pass in all 151 games of his career, four behind Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison for the longest active streak.