With the Cowboys currently sitting around $22M over the cap, they will need to make some decisions on how to free up money before free agency. One way to go about that would be cutting or trading a player on the current roster.
If the Cowboys do decide to go that route, a few veterans would likely be on their radar. One of those veterans could be cornerback Anthony Brown. Pro Football Focus even listed Brown as one player they see the Cowboys looking to move on from this offseason.
Here’s what PFF had to say about the corner.
Cut cap savings: $5,000,000
Cut dead money: $1,500,000
The Cowboys drafted two outside cornerbacks with top-100 picks in 2021, including No. 44 overall pick Kelvin Joseph, whose debut was delayed due to some minor injuries. Nonetheless, he finally got some run to close out the season and looked the part, earning a 71.2 overall grade and 73.0 coverage grade on 165 snaps at the tail end of the season. He also recorded two pass breakups on 15 targets.
With several big-name pending free agents, including wide receiver Michael Gallup, tight end Dalton Schultz and edge defender Randy Gregory among others, Dallas needs to cut costs wherever it can. Brown played a career-high 1,046 snaps while his 69.0 coverage grade was his best to date, but Dallas may have in-house replacements ready to go, making Brown a true “cap casualty.”
While it might seem intriguing to free up $5M to potentially use on retaining another in-house free agent, like Randy Gregory or Dalton Schultz, it also would put the Cowboys in a tough spot. If the Cowboys were to get rid of Brown, it would put tons of pressure on cornerback Kelvin Joseph to perform well in just his second year in the league.
The former second-round pick hardly saw the field in his rookie season, playing more than 25 snaps just twice. While Joseph did show some promise, allowing just a 46.7% reception percentage and holding quarterbacks to a 54.6 passer rating against him, his lack of experience is concerning, to say the least.
There is a temptation to make the comparison of Joseph making a huge second-year jump like Trevon Diggs did, but Diggs got tons more on-field experience in his rookie year. Diggs played more than four times as many snaps as Joseph (758 to 165) did in their first seasons, giving him much more of a chance to get acclimated to the NFL game.
This isn’t to say that Joseph won’t become a good cornerback, he certainly could, but cutting or trading Brown would open the Cowboys up to a problem that they don’t have to face. $5M isn't going to change much about the way Dallas approaches the offseason. It’s not enough money to make it worth parting ways with a veteran who started all 16 games for you last season and performed fairly well.
Believe it or not, Brown actually had a lower completion percentage (57.7%) and passer rating (82.9) when targeted than All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, via PFF. There were times when he had his fair share of struggles, like the Raiders game, but overall Brown played at a fairly high level more often than not.
Cowboys CB Anthony Brown is tied for 4th in the NFL with 6 passes defended and tied for 5th with 2 INTs.— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) October 14, 2021
Brown: “I feel like I’m playing the most productive ball I have, and I feel like I still haven’t played up to my standard yet.”
(Video: @NFL) pic.twitter.com/GQOJPFl4HW
Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs is rightfully the talk of town, given NFL-high six interceptions and at least one in each game. But CB Anthony Brown is one drop from his own three-game streak.— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 11, 2021
His two INTs tie a single-season career high. First career pick-six came Sunday vs. Giants. pic.twitter.com/zVGcM4IgXZ
DQ. Kearse. Diggs. Brown had a big hand in this too. https://t.co/JEOJkUggiV— BryanBroaddus (@BryanBroaddus) February 20, 2022
If the Cowboys keep Brown it’s a win-win. If Joseph excels in the offseason and proves to you he’s ready to be a starting cornerback during the year, you either put Brown in the slot or move him at the end of camp for a late-round pick. If you still have questions about Joseph’s ability to start right away, you keep Brown as your starter on the outside until you are ready to slide the young corner in.
Overall, the Cowboys have far too many ways to free up money without affecting their depth in the secondary. If Dallas is looking to move some money around before free agency, they should look at restructuring some contracts before moving on from Anthony Brown.