The Cowboys had their reasons for not wanting to pay Byron Jones the enormous deal he got with the Miami Dolphins. With a new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan, the writing was on the wall for Byron Jones because of his lack of turnover production and large contract price. At this moment, the fact that the Cowboys have only re-signed Anthony Brown and brought in a solid utility man like Maurice Canady doesn’t seem like enough to soften the loss of Jones.
Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis are the de facto starters and though they each have value, none of them seem ready to fill the shoes of CB1. If the Cowboys think that this year’s perceived depth at cornerback will give them one in the draft, that’s a risky proposition, too. This is why the Cowboys should pick up the phone and start thumbing through some of the free agent cornerbacks to at least have a backup plan in place.
The Cowboys are far from a team in transition; they are a team that needs to take a big step up after a letdown in 2019. Relying heavily on a rookie cornerback to deliver immediately is just not the safest way to play this out. There were rumors of the Cowboys’ interest in Chris Harris Jr. and Darius Slay but both have already landed new teams. That doesn’t mean that the Cowboys should stop looking for help, there are still several good, productive, cornerbacks that could upgrade the depth chart immediately.
Logan Ryan, CB, Titans
The 29-year-old cornerback is still on the open market and there aren’t many concerns about his health, as he started 16 games in 2019. Ryan played 99% of the Titans snaps on defense last season. He was also quite productive. Ryan recorded 73 tackles, 18 pass breakups, 4.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles. It’s hard to grasp why a guy with this production is still unsigned weeks past the opening of free agency. Perhaps his asking price was way to high but it surely has come down in the last few weeks or so. The Cowboys would be wise to call this two-time Super Bowl champion to see if they can offer a sweet enough deal to rent his services. Logan Ryan would immediately upgrade the secondary and he makes plenty of plays on the football.
Daryl Worley, CB, Raiders
The Raiders were looking to upgrade the cornerback position in free agency and let Worley know he would be hitting the open market. The Raiders had hoped to land Byron Jones but he went to south beach, their fallback plan of Chris Harris Jr. also didn’t pan out, they finally settled on Eli Apple, but then that deal fell apart. Meanwhile, Daryl Worley, who started 15 games for them last season is still available. Worley played 90% of the snaps on defense in 2019 and add 23% of the special teams snaps to that as well. Worley is not the talent that Logan Ryan is, but he would be a more capable starter than Anthony Brown on the perimeter. Worley had 58 tackles, eight pass breakups, an interception, and a fumble recovery last season. Signing Worley doesn’t keep the Cowboys from landing their guy in the draft but it does upgrade the cornerback room.
Tramon Williams, CB, Packers
Yes, Tramon Williams is going to be 37 this season but he was the 11th highest-graded cornerback in coverage this past season, according to PFF. Williams played all 16 games for the Packers and started seven of them. Williams had nearly 40 tackles, eight pass breakups, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and fumble recovery. His age is going to scare many teams away but as a short-term rental, Williams still has plenty to give a team like the Cowboys.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Bengals
If the Cowboys trust that Jourdan Lewis can hold his own as an outside cornerback than a move for an outstanding slot player like Dennard would be a good play. Darqueze Dennard has been a bright spot on a bad football team for several seasons. As a slot cornerback, Dennard owns PFF’s 12th-best coverage grade of 42 qualified corners. He ranked 20th overall with a grade of 72.2 on about 500 snaps, according to PFF. In targets of 10+ yards from the slot, Dennard has allowed the lowest catch rate for three straight seasons. Dennard may not offer versatility to play outside but he’s among the best nickel corners in the NFL and doesn’t look to be slowing down.