When the Dallas Cowboys signed Brandon Carr and drafted Morris Claiborne in 2012, I referred to them as “C + C Interception Factory” because of all the interceptions they were going to produce. And while this duo never took off like many of us hoped, the factory has now packed up shop and moved to the east coast. On Thursday news broke that Carr had signed with the Baltimore Ravens and Claiborne had signed with the New York Jets. Many fans expected the team to retain at least one of of these guys, but that just didn’t happen.
Now what are the Cowboys going to do?
Well, the draft will be a good spot to start looking for their replacements. The great news is that this is a very deep draft class for cornerbacks and the Cowboys could find day one starters through the first three rounds. That is the real solution to revamping this position.
But that shouldn’t be the only solution. The Cowboys can still use free agency to address the holes left by the departure of Carr and Claiborne. While the action is starting to die down, free agency is going to start shifting to a buyers market. And with it will come good savings. That’s when the Cowboys will jump into action. Of course the downside is that the pickings will be slim as there won’t be any sexy names to choose from. But that’s not a problem. The real question is - are there still some viable options that can help the team?
Here are three options the Cowboys could still sign at the cornerback position:
The Los Angeles Chargers (man, that’s weird to say) just released him a week ago. It was a purely financial decision as he was due a $9 million base salary in 2017. His age might be a little geriatric for what the Cowboys look for in free agency, but if they were considering re-signing Carr, then that shouldn’t be a big issue. Here are two Brandon to Brandon comparisons:
Age when the season begins: Carr = 31; Flowers = 31
PFF grade for 2016: Carr = 75.3; Flowers = 76.7
What separates them is durability. Flowers has missed at least one game in each of the last five seasons, totaling 21 games. Carr hasn’t missed any games. Ever.
While availability can be an issue, Flowers is the better player and can be a real factor when he’s on the field.
In 9 years of playing in the NFL, Brandon Flowers has just 20 missed tackles in coverage. Some CBs reach that in a 2 year span.— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) March 7, 2017
It’s unsure what he’ll cost, but if he ends up being cheap, this could be a good pick up for the Cowboys.
The New York Giants reloaded their secondary in a big way last off-season with high-priced free agent Janoris Jenkins and first round draft pick Eli Apple. And that doesn’t even include their best cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was already on their team. The Giants also added Hall on a one-year deal. While he got lost in all the abundance of talent, he still played well. He graded out at 75.9 and proved he can still be a viable piece to the secondary. He can also play safety and the position flexibility could come in handy for Dallas who also lost both Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox to free agency. He got a lot of hate from Green Bay Packers fans when he hit Jordy Nelson and injured his ribs. Was it dirty? Uh, you be the judge.
He’s 32, but on a one-year cheap deal, he could be a nice bridge player.
While signing a savvy older veteran is one way to go, it’s usually not the way the Cowboys do business. Instead, they love these sneaky little under-the-radar guys that we all have to google to get some idea of who he is. Morris fits this profile. He’s well traveled as he’s played for three teams in four years, but he’s still young. At 26 years old, he is still showing improvement and the Cowboys love upside guys. While he’s not someone you want on the opponent’s top WR, he can be solid at the bottom of the depth chart.
The Cowboys aren’t looking for home runs in free agency. They are just trying to advance the runner. Morris is that type of player. He finished with a PFF grade of 74.3 last season with an Indianapolis team that was terrible in pass defense.
Losing Carr and Claiborne makes the Cowboys cornerback position a little worrisome for the moment. The draft will certainly help, but they need to get some more support so they can handle the offensive arsenal that awaits them in 2017. Look at how free agency has reshaped the wide receivers for the Cowboys NFC East opponents:
New York Giants - Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard
Philadelphia Eagles - Alshon Jeffrey, Torrey Smith, and Jordan Matthews
Washington Redskins - Terrell Pryor, Josh Doctson, and Jamison Crowder (and they also have Jordan Reed)
And don’t forget, the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons are the Cowboys' respective NFC North and South opponents this year. Having too much cornerback depth is not something you will hear any complaints about this season, especially from a team that plays half of their schedule against these teams.
Ultimately the plan is to get younger and that will be accomplished through the draft. But if the goal of the Cowboys' free agency is to fill voids, then they have some more work to do in free agency at the cornerback position.
Which free agent CB would you like to see the Cowboys sign?