Cowboys bid farewell to Coakley
04:55 PM CST on Tuesday, March 1, 2005
By MATT MOSLEY / DallasNews.com
The Cowboys have broken ties with one of the most prolific linebackers in club history.
Dexter Coakley, a third-round pick out of Appalachian State in 1997, was released Tuesday, when a restructured contract could not be worked out.
Coakley, who will turn 33 in October, was scheduled to receive a $502,000 roster bonus this week.
Even though he was among the league's smallest linebackers at 5-10, 236 pounds, Coakley earned three trips to the Pro Bowl. In 2002, Coakley put up the second-highest tackles total in team history with 173. But his numbers declined over the past two seasons.
The normally affable Coakley was upset last off-season when coach Bill Parcells opened up the competition at linebacker. Coakley rotated with second-year player Bradie James during training camp, but was once again the starter when the season began.
Coakley is tied with former defensive back Dennis Thurman for the most defensive touchdowns in club history with five (four interception returns and one fumble return).
With the Cowboys considering a change to a 3-4 defensive front, Coakley's role with the team was up in the air. The alignment, which Parcells has always preferred, calls for bigger linebackers who have the ability to take on 300-pound guards and tackles. That said, Coakley had earned the respect of Parcells, who gave him the nickname "Mascot" soon after taking over the team.
In his eight seasons with the Cowboys, Coakley was always among the team's top three in tackles. His only trips to the playoffs came after the 1998, 1999 and 2003 seasons. The Cowboys lost wild-card games in each of those seasons.