On Friday, the Dallas Cowboys released center Phil Costa and restructured the contract of guard Mackenzy Bernadeau to get under the $134.55 million 2014 salary cap.
It was a quiet, unsurprising, painless end to Costa’s Dallas career. He may never play another NFL snap.
What happened? Costa just one year ago signed a two-year extension that made it look like he’d be in Dallas through 2014 at least.
Hell, just two years ago he started all 16 games and looked to be the default long-term guy at center.
Things have been rough for Costa since then. Sidelined by injury, Costa played in only three games in 2012. He was rock-solid against Baltimore that October, only to find himself injured on the bench again next week.
That might have sealed his fate. Even when healthy, Costa was only reluctantly handed the reins to the center spot, and even in the best of times his journey was hardly smooth.
Costa went undrafted in 2010 after playing his college ball at Maryland. The Cowboys took a chance and signed him, and a lack of depth put him on the roster behind Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier.
When those two left town, Costa was the next man up. His Cinderella dreams were about to be made—or shattered.
The 2011 season didn’t really do either of those things. Costa played poorly, to be sure, but was never replaced. He had a -5.7 rating in pass blocking according to Pro Football Focus, sandwiched in the middle of an inexperienced line. Tony Romo was sacked 36 times, a total somehow matched in 2012 without Costa’s help.
Costa showed signs of improvement as the season wore down, but it was hard to forget some of his blunders. Perhaps most memorable was his uninspiring performance against the Redskins in which he snapped the ball early four different times on national TV.
This led to widespread speculation, even from Jason Garrett himself, that the ‘Skins had been barking during Romo’s snap count, attempting to throw Costa off. If they were, it sure did work.
All offseason the Dallas media waited to see if Costa had improved, but his injuries made it a moot point.
When Jerry Jones signed Costa’s extension last March, he said he could “see going with Costa at center for several years.”
And then just weeks later the ‘Boys traded down and picked Travis Frederick out of Wisconsin in the first round of the 2013 draft. So much for Jerry’s visions.
Though Costa knew he likely wouldn’t be playing much last year, his personal life took a turn for the better when he was reportedly engaged to WWE starlet Brooke Hogan, son of Hulk, last June. Brooke apparently wasn’t interested in dating a backup, however, as the engagement was called off in November.
It’s tough to say when Costa realized he would become a salary cap casualty. Perhaps he thought, as the team’s only true backup, he would be immune.
It’s true that Costa’s departure leaves the Cowboys scary-thin on the O-line, but a decent draft and a free agent signing should take care of that.
Football, as we all know, can be a cruel game. Costa never really had the chance in 2012 to prove he could be the long-term solution at center for the ‘Boys, but the team is probably better for it. Frederick looks likely to hold down the spot for years to come.
Phil Costa will likely never play another NFL snap, and he’ll probably never marry Brooke Hogan. How does that old saying go? ‘Tis better to have loved and lost . . ..
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