Reporting David Elfin
Stephen Bowen played the last five seasons in Dallas. He started only 11 games – including the final nine last year – recording just 5.5 sacks and 72 tackles while batting down three passes and forcing a lone fumble.
While defensive ends aren’t expected to be playmakers in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme, those are still hardly the numbers of a defensive end bound for greatness. So, the 27-year-old Bowen didn’t make the lists of top NFL free agents who became available in July.
And yet, the Redskins decided to overwhelm Bowen with a five-year, $27.5 million contract that included $12 million guaranteed. Imagine how many of Dan Snyder’s millions Washington would have showered on the 6-foot-5, 306-pound Bowen if he had been a big-time producer in Dallas.
With Marcus Spears set to reclaim the left end spot that Bowen filled while the former was sidelined with ankle injury down the stretch last season, leaving the Cowboys for the Redskins was a no-brainer for the one-time undrafted rookie from Hofstra, especially after Washington lured Barry Cofield away from the New York Giants to play nose tackle in its 3-4 defense.
“When they signed Barry, I knew we’d have a chance to be a dominant front, a chance to win a lot more games than people expect,” Bowen said. “I’m looking forward to going down to Dallas in Week 3 and making a statement.”
If Bowen does just that, he’ll only match Washington’s braintrust whose stunningly lucrative contract offer harkened back to the bad old days under Vinny Cerrato. The former front office boss had no qualms about dishing out five-year, $30 million deals to the likes of Adam “The Mistake” Archuleta, Brandon “I Only Play For Winners” Lloyd and Antwaan “East-West” Randle El in one fateful weekend in March 2006.
Loner Archuleta lasted just seven starts before being benched for the creaky Troy Vincent and then traded the following offseason. The grumpy Lloyd caught just 25 passes for 379 yards and no touchdowns in two years before being waived. Randle El was relentlessly upbeat and an adequate receiver, but he got progressively worse at what made him special in Pittsburgh: returning punts. He was part of then-new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan’s housecleaning in March 2010.
After Cerrato’s March 2006 splurge, the Redskins, who had recorded just their second playoff victory in 13 years two months prior, were 26-38 the next four years without any postseason triumphs.
Maybe Bowen is an aberration for the less cavalier Shanahan regime, but his over-the-top contract should give Washington fans with any memories the willies.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March