As second- and third-round picks from the 2021 NFL Draft, Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright were supposed to already be steady contributors on the Cowboys defense. But neither has really carved out a role and now their jobs should be on the line when Dallas heads into its 2023 training camp.
Joseph and Wright were drafted during a period of major transition at cornerback. Chidobe Awuzie left in free agency and there wasn’t much else on the roster behind Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis. Dallas needed more players immediately and for the future.
Unfortunately, despite being Day 2 picks, neither player has done much in their first two years. In fact, they allowed fifth-round rookie DaRon Bland to leapfrog them on the depth chart last season. Even Israel Mukuamu, a sixth-round pick from their own draft who mostly played safety, is projected to have a larger role in 2023.
With these other guys rising, plus the addition of veteran Stephon Gilmore to Diggs and Lewis, it was getting crowded on the CB depth chart. A roster spot is also needed for C.J. Goodwin, who’s mainly a special teamer but listed as a corner on the roster. If that wasn’t enough, now rookie Eric Scott Jr. is making noise and could be a more attractive option at this point for upside and expense.
Cost-effectiveness is part of this discussion as well. Now in the third year of their rookie contracts, Joseph and Wright are scheduled to count a combined $3.4 million against Dallas’ salary cap. The Cowboys are now out of the “underwater” phase of those deals with just $1.9 million in dead money left, meaning they can save some space by releasing them.
If not for late-round risers like Bland, Mukuamu, and Scott, we might not be having this discussion. Joseph and Wright would probably slide right into 2023 roster spots, still bringing up the rear but at least holding down depth spots with the hope of future development.
But not only are these other options cheaper, they’ve also simply been better so far than Joseph or Wright. Bland was a Defensive Rookie of the Year contender last season and Mukuamu was superior in limited CB reps late last year. His versatility as a safety option only increases his job security.
These stacked numbers also mean that the expiring contracts of Diggs, Gilmore, and Lewis after this season don’t really help the young guys now. Dallas might love the idea of keeping them around for potential future needs, hoping for some delayed development, but only have so many 2023 roster spots to go around. They can try to keep them on the practice squad, but given their experience and former draft status, another team would likely poach them.
So yeah, if this conclusion wasn’t obvious, neither Kelvin Joseph or Nahshon Wright seem likely to make the team in their third seasons. They certainly could change that perception with their camp and preseason performances, but it feels like better options are already here. Barring injuries or other unforeseen factors, both could be entering their last two months as Cowboys.