After the Cowboys traded for veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore last month, one might assume they won’t be looking at cornerbacks in the early rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft. But given their present and future situation at the position, Dallas could certainly justify another significant investment; perhaps even as high as their first-round pick.
Gilmore’s arrival, which cost the Cowboys one of their fifth-round picks this year, seems to round out the CB depth chart nicely. He walks in as a starter opposite Trevon Diggs, leaving Jourdan Lewis and DaRon Bland to battle it out for the slot role. You also have Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, and Israel Mukuamu as solid depth options to compete for the remaining roster spots.
But things could change very quickly after this season. Diggs, Gilmore, and Lewis all have expiring contracts. While keeping Gilmore and Lewis shouldn’t be too costly if they choose to do it, Diggs will likely be looking at a $20 million average on his next contract, if not a little more.
There’s a thought that the Cowboys will try to get ahead of that issue by extending Diggs sometime later this offseason. The $10.9 million in cap space coming in June from releasing Ezekiel Elliott would go a long way to funding that new deal.
But even if that happens, you still have Gilmore and Lewis as 33- and 28-year-old free agents, respectively, in 2024. Alternatively, what if a first- or second-round pick from this year’s draft was already in place to step up into the starting lineup? A cheap talent on a new four-year rookie deal would make a good financial complement to an extended Diggs.
Even if it makes sense next year and beyond, is it overkill in 2023? Maybe a little if everything goes well, but we just mentioned the ages of Gilmore and Lewis. If either gets hurt or suffers physical decline, how much do you really want Joseph, Wright, or Mukuamu to be in line for a significant snap count?
If it does feel like a logjam for 2023, the Cowboys would also have the option to trade or release Lewis after the draft. They get back $4.7 million in cap space either way. That money could also go towards a new deal for Diggs or perhaps WR CeeDee Lamb, or any number of other late-offseason or midseason free agent pickups.
Of course, any player drafted would be no sure thing for future value. You could get another Trevon Diggs just as easily as another Kelvin Joseph, just like any other gamble that comes in the draft.
But given where they could be next year with their CB contracts, Dallas couldn’t be faulted for adding another asset there now. Not only could the rookie bolster current depth, he would provide some leverage in contract talks with Trevon Diggs and insurance against future departures. If the right talent is there, even as high as the 26th-overall pick, the Cowboys have a compelling case to draft a cornerback.