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Cowboys Facing A Cornerback Conundrum

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The cornerback situation in Dallas is definitely one of the big question marks heading into the off-season.

At least there is one reliable corner in Dallas.
At least there is one reliable corner in Dallas.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It seems to me that I have quoted this somewhere before, but you remember the statement made by former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in 2012, the one where he was looking for nothing but cornerbacks, right? The two that he found for the Cowboys have yet to live up to the hype of what was expected of them and now the Dallas front office once again finds itself in a position where the position is one in need of an upgrade. In spite of a statement about Morris Claiborne where Jerry Jones said that he thought that Dallas should exercise its fifth-year option on the embattled defensive back, his son Stephen realizes that cornerback is a glaring weakness on the Dallas defense.

"We've got a high cap number with Carr that we've got to look at. I think Brandon has played well for us. I think he played better toward the back half of the year. Certainly we've got a situation, obviously, there with Mo and his injuries. We've got to look at that." - Stephen Jones

Stephen is correct in his statement. In 2012 the Dallas Cowboys pulled out all of the stops to sign former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr to a $50.1 million five-year deal. That contract will pay Carr $12,717,000 in 2015. A payday like that is far beyond reasonable for the type of play that the Cowboys have gotten in return. The team can get that caliber of play on the open market for much less than what they are paying Carr.

What to do about Carr has to weigh heavy on the minds of the Jones family. Designating Brandon as a post-June 1st cut would result in roughly $8 million of cap savings this year, but would add over $7 million of dead money in 2016. In addition, someone still has to line up at the position, and with Mo Claiborne's injury history and dismal performance, there is no reason to assume that he would be a viable option to pair along side Orlando Scandrick.

Claiborne has his own issues to contend with; Dallas has a first- and second-round draft pick invested in him. While Carr's performance has been average, Claiborne's efforts have been futile. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating against Mo of 108.3. For perspective, Aaron Rodgers holds the highest all-time passer rating with a 106. Injuries have also been an issue for the former LSU Tiger; Claiborne has missed 42% of the games during his career in Dallas. If Carr was a poor return on the team's investment, Claiborne is magnitudes worse. At least he is (relatively) cheap. His 2014 salary is fully guaranteed, but he will cost the team around a third of what Carr will.

The issue Dallas will have to address is not an easy one. Do they roll the dice and cut Carr? If so, who plays corner if/when Claiborne  either cannot go or when he fails to perform? Do they keep the former free agent around and overpay for another year's service while counting on his late season surge to continue into 2015? They may choose to invest another high draft pick on the position or take another shot through free agency. Who knows, the front office may be willing to re-sign Sterling Moore and throw their chips on him. No matter what the team decides to do, it will be a calculated risk.

One thing is almost certain, anything Dallas does will only be a partial fix. It is not feasible, that with so many needs on defense, a total answer will come in 2015. This is going to be a multi-year project for the front office and the sooner they start addressing the issue, the sooner it can get resolved.