Going into the 2010 season, it appeared that the Cowboys were a team with a solid set of cornerbacks. As we all know, you need three good corners to make a defense truly feared, and the Cowboys had Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Newman and Jenkins had made recent forays to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Newman was the steady veteran who had battled injuries recently, but was still game. Jenkins shook off a poor 2008 season to become an up-and-comer in 2009, a year that showcased his good ball skills and ability to close on the ball in the air. Scandrick was the nickel guy who made the package complete.
Then came 2010. Jenkins regressed terribly, so much that fans and coaches alike were wondering what happened. We know he has the talent, but penalties and poor technique brought his game to a crashing halt. Newman continued with his injury issues and hobbled his way through a mediocre at best season, some games he was much worse. Only Scandrick seemed to keep his form.
So, where do the Cowboys go from here?
Let's take a peak at what Football Outsiders says about the secondary.
Dallas' pass-rush remained effective in 2010, ranking 11th in adjusted sack rate, up from a 12th-place ranking in 2009. Despite getting similar production up front, the Cowboys dropped from 15th in pass defense DVOA in 2009, when starting cornerbacks Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins both made the Pro Bowl, to 28th in 2010. Newman and Jenkins both struggled in 2010, as did free safety Alan Ball, who is expected to be moved back to his natural cornerback position in 2011.
Jenkins returns in a starting role, but Newman turns 33 in September and is due an $8 million base salary, making him no lock to return in 2011. Dallas may look for a replacement for Newman through free agency, as Orlando Scandrick and 2010 undrafted free agent Bryan McCann are better suited for nickelback and dime back roles.
I don't think you can look to the draft for help. Fifth-round pick Josh Thomas, cornerback from Buffalo, may or may not be an asset to the team, but is doubtful he can immediately help the main corner rotation. That leaves free agency. We've already discussed the dream of acquiring Nnamdi Asomugha, something the Cowboys are rumored to explore. But it's likely many other teams will also make that move, so the competition will be fierce.
The mothership throws out the name of a possible cheaper option.
If signed, [Antonio] Cromartie would likely fit into the left cornerback position. That would mean the Cowboys would probably be parting ways with Terence Newman. If the team is expected to make a run at Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, which has been reported several times here in the last few weeks, then obviously the Cowboys are seeking some sort of upgrade at the position and would be prepared to dish out some serious coin. That being said, if the Cowboys are simply out-bid for his services, then Cromartie could be the next-best thing and would still be an upgrade over Newman, at a cheaper price than Asomugha.
It sounds like Newman is being thrown under the bus by multiple sources. That $8 million salary and his age, 33, could work against him.
Even if the Cowboys choose to make a move in at corner, they absolutely have to do something at safety. Alan Ball needs to go back to corner, and Gerald Sensabaugh is a free-agent and no lock to re-sign. No matter how good the Cowboys become at corner, teams will exploit the middle of the field on a regualr basis unless Dallas decides to get serious about safety.