The Cowboys added to their secondary on Friday night by signing cornerback Nolan Carroll to a three-year deal, worth $10 million. Carroll had been a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles and was almost signed by the Cowboys in the 2016 offseason. The Cowboys have two free agent cornerbacks in Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr who are still unsigned, and they have two players who have started for them at cornerback under contract in Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown.
The signing of Carroll provides insurance for the Cowboys and opens up options. They could still go after either Carr or Claiborne, or they could wait and go after a corner in the draft which is supposedly loaded with talent at the position. The signing of Carroll gives Dallas the minimum needed of three cornerbacks under contract that you can actually play.
So that’s the key, can Carroll play? By most accounts his 2015 season was better than his 2016 season, although he did start all 16 games for the Eagles last year. When you sign a free agent, it’s always good to see what the media from his former team are saying to get an idea about the player. And with Carroll, it’s a decided...he’s okay.
Carroll was a serviceable starter for the Eagles at times but other times he was a liability in coverage. For what it’s worth Pro Football Focus ranked him 92nd out of 112 cornerbacks in 2016.
Bringing Carroll back on a cheap deal wouldn’t have been the worst thing for the Eagles, but paying the 30-year-old as much as Dallas did wouldn’t have been ideal for Philadelphia.
The Eagles are clearing out personnel from the Chip years, and Carroll’s age is a bit of a concern. The Cowboys have him for three years but it’s likely his contract is front-loaded. Across the board, when reading about Carroll from the Eagles media, the word was he was the Eagles best corner last year, but that’s not saying much considering the poor performance of that secondary. The feeling one gets is he’s serviceable. That’s the word mostly associated with his play.
How will the Cowboys use him? Guessing from the status of the players right now, Scandrick and Brown would start and Carroll would come in and Scandrick would move to the slot in nickel formation. That is if the Cowboys are as high on Brown as the rest of us are at the moment. But Carroll does have experience in the slot.
While Carroll mostly played as the team's dime cornerback in 2014, he also played some nickel, according to Pro Football Focus. In the 73 snaps Carroll played as a nickel cornerback last season, the veteran cornerback was targeted 11 times. He allowed seven receptions for 42 yards (6.0 average). Opposing quarterbacks had a 71.0 passer rating when throwing in Carroll's direction. It's a small sample size, but the numbers look decent.
Carroll hardly played on the inside when he was with the Dolphins. In four years with Miami, he logged 33 snaps as the nickel cornerback. He was targeted seven times but only allowed one reception for five yards. Again, it's a small sample size.
So how should we grade this move? ESPN says:
Grade: B Factoring need and price, it is hard to quibble with the deal. Teams can never have enough corners, and the Cowboys did not want to test that theory without covering themselves a little bit more. The addition of Carroll does not take them out of the corner market in the draft, but it will allow them to set up their draft board more purely and not push position needs up the must-have list.
I generally agree, but would give them a B-minus. Having a veteran corner with experience is great, and does give them flexibility in re-signing either Carr or Claiborne, and in the draft. But I would have like to have seen them use this money towards Carr, a player who is also serviceable, doesn’t get injured, knows the Cowboys scheme and seemed to have a better year being back on the right side of the defense.
A move like the one to sign Carroll was needed, but was it the right player?
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