Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones hinted Tuesday the team likely will part ways with veteran linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking this offseason.
"Bradie and Brooking are two of the best leaders, personalities I have ever had the pleasure of being around," Jones told The Dallas Morning News. "They're great guys. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. That's what we've got to decide."
According to the newspaper, Jones emphasized the team hasn't made final decisions on James, 31, and Brooking, 36, who are scheduled to become free agents next month.
Added Jones: "No one respects those guys more than we do, our family does, than the Cowboys do. Obviously when you make a decision to continue or discontinue, it is a big one."
James, a fourth-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, had 744 tackles and 10 forced fumbles in nine seasons in Dallas. This season, however, James registered just 44 tackles, his fewest since he had 12 in his rookie campaign.
Brooking, who signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys in 2009 after spending 11 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, started just three games this season after starting every game in 2010. He had 97 tackles in 2010 after recording at least 100 for nine consecutive seasons, but he managed just 50 this season.
Fellow linebacker Anthony Spencer also could become a free agent next month, and the team must decide whether to apply the franchise tag on him if it can't work out an extension on his contract. Teammate DeMarcus Ware told the Morning News on Saturday he wants Spencer to stay.
"I think it's really important to get Spencer back because if you look back, he's not a guy who is probably going to have 40 or 50 sacks, but at the end of the day, he's a run-stopper," Ware said. "He drops a lot, and you see a lot of pass breakups and a lot of tackles for loss, so he's making a lot of plays for us but they are subtle plays. He's a solid player we need to keep."
Jones told the Cowboys' official website Wednesday that the team hasn't made a decision about Spencer, but will have a discussion with his agent. Jones also said Spencer is "solid."
NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora recently wrote that Spencer, a former first-round draft pick who had 66 tackles and six sacks this season, is a good candidate to receive a franchise tag.