Yesterday, I posted my thoughts on the strategies available to the Cowboys to solve their shortage of running backs on the roster. In my opinion, the lack of running backs on the team besides MB3 is matched by the lack of cornerbacks behind the starters Terence Newman and Anthony Henry. These are the two most important positions that the Cowboys need to address in free agency and the draft. Today, I’ll look at the CB position.
So what’s available to the Cowboys? Well, in the free agent market there are not a lot of exciting players left that would significantly upgrade the Cowboys over what they had in Jacques Reeves. There are aging players like Brian Kelly, Ty Law and recently released guys like Andre Dyson and Fernando Bryant. There are also a lot of younger guys who have never really made their mark in the NFL who would be a risk.
There are players who are on the trade market. I think most Cowboys fans would love to get their hands on Lito Sheppard and his cap-friendly contract, but I doubt the Eagles would deal him within the division. The Broncos also reportedly want to trade RFA Domonique Foxworth. Then there are the ever-present rumors of the Cowboys trading for DeAngelo Hall and to a lesser extent, Pacman Jones. I can’t see the Cowboys trading for Hall unless they can re-work his contract past 2008. Why would you give up a hefty price for a player that can walk after the next year? You don’t, unless you sign him to a new deal. Can the Cowboys afford that right now? I doubt it. Then there are the Pacman Jones rumors which are mostly fueled by Pacman’s repeated desire to play in Dallas. He mentioned it again today, here. I don’t see much chance of this happening unless Pacman is willing to play for a Tank Johnson-type minimal deal, and even then the Cowboys would have to think twice. It’s hard to build a secondary around a player who could be suspended from the league at any moment.
Finally, the Cowboys could sign one their own, Nate Jones, but he would hardly be the nickel corner to inspire confidence.
So there are possibilities still available before the draft but either the player carries a lot of risk for various reasons or unlikely to be available to the Cowboys through trade. I have to admit here that it is much harder for me to grade the mid-level CB’s because I just don’t see enough of them in games and the stats available for CB’s just aren’t as thorough as they are for a RB, WR, DE or other positions. Sometimes, the lack of stats for a CB actually shows how good they are. Anyway I look at it; it’s just harder for me to grade CB’s.
The Cowboys also may be looking within, but I’m having a hard time believing that the Cowboys are willing to hand the "starter" nickel corner role to Alan Ball, Evan Oglesby or Quincy Butler. Of that group, Ball would be the most likely choice if they went that way, but the guy was picked in the 7th-round for a reason. I’m not saying a guy picked that low can’t be a quality starter (read: Jay Ratliff) but the odds are much longer. I saw Ball in the last training camp and came away unconvinced. There’s been a lot of talk from the Cowboys coaches that Ball has impressed this year in practice so maybe he has stepped up his game. Still, if he’s the answer then I’m nervous – to put it mildly.
Basically, I don’t see much happening between now and the draft that will brings us the nickel corner we so need. If that holds true, the Cowboys have to draft at least one corner and would be better served by drafting a couple. They also need to pickup one of those corners early in the draft, preferably in the first round.
At the top of most boards is Leodis McKelvin and climbing the charts right behind, occasionally surpassing him, is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. As it looks today, neither of these players will be available to the Cowboys when they are on the clock. If either of these players starts to "slide" and ends up in the middle-teen range, the Cowboys could make their play and move up to snatch them. This is a scenario I wouldn’t mind seeing at all.
After those two, you generally see Mike Jenkins and Aqib Talib, followed closely by guys like Brandon Flowers, Antoine Cason, Tracy Porter, and Justin King among others. So there is enough quality for the Cowboys to get a CB in the first round if they want one, even if they "reach" just a bit based on the so-called expert’s take.
If the Cowboys don’t sign or trade for a CB before they draft, they have to go after one on the first day of the draft. In my view, they shouldn’t wait and go ahead and pick one in the first round. And if they can get one of the top two in the middle-teens by trade, go ahead and pull the trigger.