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Cowboys jettison Aikman

Three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback waived because of expense, fragility.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 2001


IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys waived Troy Aikman on Wednesday, no longer convinced that the quarterback who led them to three Super Bowl titles is healthy enough to be their starter.

"He'll be missed on the field at Texas Stadium. He'll always be a Dallas Cowboy and always be a very important part of this organization," owner Jerry Jones said.

"We always shared a mutual respect for what was in the best interest of Troy and the Dallas Cowboys," Jones said. "In the end, it was in the best interest for him to have a timely opportunity to entertain all of his options."

Aikman had no problem with the decision.

"As far as what's in the best interest of this club long-term, the right thing was done," he said.

"My desires are to continue to play," said Aikman, who spent 12 seasons with Dallas and suffered 10 concussions. The 34-year-old couldn't say if he'd be playing in 2001 or for what team.

Jones had to make the move by today or pay Aikman a $7-million bonus and extend his contract through 2007. He still will take up $10-million of Dallas' $67.4-million salary cap this season.

"This was as much a salary cap casualty as it was anything else," Aikman said. Jones also said the salary cap was a factor.

Aikman said that if it were as simple as health, "a decision would have been reached long ago."

"I believe it's more to do with how do you work the pure numbers that were involved where it makes sense to not jeopardize the future of the Cowboys."

Dallas also agreed to re-sign linebacker Dexter Coakley for $25-million for six years, with a $5.5-million signing bonus.

To clear cap room, the Cowboys are expected to release veteran offensive left tackle Erik Williams and defensive tackle Chad Hennings.

As much as Jones might have wanted to keep Aikman -- the first player he drafted -- the owner apparently decided the Cowboys couldn't prepare for the 2001 season with such a fragile, expensive quarterback.

The six-time Pro Bowler, who holds practically every Dallas passing record, suffered two concussions in 11 games last season and twice needed epidural injections to relieve back pain.

Other teams might be scared off by Aikman's injuries, which could then prompt him to retire. However, tests done before last season showed no long-term damage from concussions.

One possible landing spot is San Diego, where friend Norv Turner is offensive coordinator.

Once the highest-paid player in NFL history, Aikman is coming off his worst season since the Cowboys went 1-15 his rookie year.

He was the lowest-rated starting quarterback in the NFC. Aikman also missed five games with injuries and was knocked out of three, all in the first quarter.

Finding Aikman's replacement won't be easy. The only two quarterbacks on the roster, Anthony Wright and Clint Stoerner, are a combined 25-of-55 for 290 yards in their NFL careers, which began last season. Trent Dilfer and Tony Banks are the only free agents the Cowboys are known to have spoken with, and Dallas has no first-round pick.

Aikman came to Dallas in 1989 as the No. 1 pick from UCLA. He, running back Emmitt Smith and receiver Michael Irvin propelled Dallas to the top of the NFL three seasons after it was on the bottom. The Cowboys won an unprecedented three Super Bowls in four years, including consecutive titles in 1992-93.

Aikman's career postseason record is 11-4. He was the MVP of his first Super Bowl, a 52-17 victory over Buffalo. He later joined Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as the only quarterbacks with at least three Super Bowl victories.

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