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Cowboys 2023 offseason position breakdown series: Cornerbacks

A breakdown of the cornerbacks on the Dallas Cowboys roster. The stats, the cap allocation and projections.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Position Breakdown Series is taking every position group for the Dallas Cowboys and looking at the players, their rankings, contract numbers and predicting the upcoming season for each player.

This edition is looking at the cornerbacks for Dallas, so let’s get straight to it.

Trevon Diggs #7
Age: 24
Experience: 4 years
College: Alabama Crimson Tide

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 1,263
Tackles: 59
Defensive Stops: 17
Pass Breakup: 10
Interceptions: 3
QB Rate Allowed: 99.2
Penalties: 6

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $4,843,257 (2.1% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $539,256
Base Salary- $4,304,000
Signing Bonus- $539,256

2023 Projection:

Tom - How good is Diggs? Is he a top ten cornerback? Top five? Top three?

I don’t think it is overstating the case to say this is the conversation to be having about him. Yes, he does get beaten, but part of that has been his aggressiveness in going for the pick instead of just defending. After his stellar sophomore campaign, opponents became much more careful about targeting him. When the offseason began this year, the thought of him and the other cornerbacks already on the roster made me feel very good about things. He still makes me feel that way.

Mike - That arrow is still pointing up for Diggs. Last season the interceptions went down but as a complete cornerback he looked better. Sure there’s the complaints about his lack of willingness to tackle, and everyone calls him out for it. One things for certain, another year of development and learning from one of the best corners (Stephon Gilmore) in the league will improve his game, and by the end of the season we will know exactly the player that Diggs will be beyond this season. The biggest question though is will he be at Dallas next year?

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Stephon Gilmore #21
Age: 32
Experience: 12 years
College: South Carolina Gamecocks

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 1,064
Tackles: 60
Defensive Stops: 12
Pass Breakup: 8
Interceptions: 2
QB Rate Allowed: 82.6
Penalties: 4

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $9,920,000 (4.7% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $0
Base Salary- $7,960,000
Signing Bonus- $0

2023 Projection:

Tom - I did not see this trade coming. Even with the departure of Anthony Brown, the cornerback room looked very good. To me, this is an example of something that NFL teams in general, and the Cowboys in particular, often under utilize. It’s called improving your strengths. The priority most of the time is improving weaknesses, but this may have lifted this position from good to elite for Dallas. Even though he is in the latter stages of his career, Gilmore should pair with Diggs to give opposing quarterbacks fits, while the next couple of names give the team quality depth that will likely be needed at some point this season.

Mike - This trade is one of the better made by Dallas in a while. What the addition of Gilmore does for the rest of the defensive back alignment is incredible and makes the cornerback position one of the deepest positions for Dallas. The idea of two ball-hawks on the field at the same time means at some point the opposing quarterback has to throw to either Diggs or Gilmore, and we know how much danger there is throwing to either. Diggs and Gilmore are both equally talented, Diggs is at the ascending stage of his career where as Gilmore is on the way down. The only concern for me with Gilmore is his age and whether that will effect his durability and athleticism.

DaRon Bland #26
Age: 23
Experience: 2 years
College: Fresno State Bulldogs

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 745
Tackles: 52
Defensive Stops: 14
Pass Breakup: 2
Interceptions: 5
QB Rate Allowed: 86.5
Penalties: 4

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $946,147 (0.4% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $228,581
Base Salary- $870,000
Signing Bonus- $76,197

2023 Projection:

Tom - Let’s give the scouting staff their just due. The Cowboys had a heckuva fifth round in the 2022 draft, snagging Bland and linebacker Damone Clark, both of who are certain to make the 53-man roster. All Bland did was step in when Jourdan Lewis went down and lead the team in interceptions. That actually ties in to how teams were much more circumspect in going after Diggs last season, which just gave Bland more opportunities to snag the turnovers. Now, between these top three corners, just who are opponents going to go after?

(Evil villain laugh.)

Mike - One reason the Cowboys did so well on defense last year was when the call of “next man up” came at cornerback, Bland answered. If you think how different the season could have gone if Bland hadn’t stepped up when the team needed him to, that’s a crazy thought. He tied for second-most interceptions in the NFL, and he literally only played half a season. As a nickel corner that can cover the big-slot receivers he was so effective last year. Another year of developing he could work as a boundary defender, but for now let’s just enjoy where he is coming into only his second year playing.

Dallas Cowboys v Tennessee Titans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Jourdan Lewis #2
Age: 27
Experience: 7 years
College: Michigan Wolverines

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 315
Tackles: 19
Sacks: 1
Defensive Stops: 9
Pass Breakup: 0
Interceptions: 1
QB Rate Allowed: 95.4
Penalties: 1

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $5,872,545 (2.6% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $1,166,668
Base Salary- $4,500,000
Signing Bonus- $1,166,668

2023 Projection:

Tom - After being CB3, Lewis looks to be CB4 this season after the addition of Gilmore. That is not an entirely bad thing, as he has struggled with injuries of late. Being more of a depth player may help him stay healthy, and there are not many NFL teams that have a fourth corner as good as Lewis, who has always been a bit underappreciated. However, there has been some speculation the Cowboys might be willing to trade Lewis. I don’t know whether that is a legitimate thing, or if it would be wise. But there is some logic. I’m a cautious type, and I’d rather keep Lewis on the roster.

Mike - This is the first real player that has a number of questions at cornerback. The Lisfranc injury is the first question and how that will effect his speed and mobility. At the cornerback position there is no other worse injury that can diminish a players ability to play. If he doesn’t check boxes this preseason he could be on the move. At the same time he’s not much cost in terms of dead cap and has a substantial cap value, so they could look to move on from him to save money for other positions that need more depth. And one place there’s plenty of depth is cornerback if the team looks to cut down. But last year, Lewis was looking really good and was killing it as a slot corner. For certain teams on this year’s schedule, having a guy like Lewis and his skill set would be perfect to shutdown opposing offense’s options.

Israel Mukuamu #24
Age: 23
Experience: 3 years
College: South Carolina Gamecocks

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 212
Tackles: 17
Defensive Stops: 3
Pass Breakup: 1
Interceptions: 1
QB Rate Allowed: 51.6
Penalties: 0

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $972,677 (0.4% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $65,354
Base Salary- $940,000
Signing Bonus- $32,677

2023 Projection:

Tom - Wait. I’m not sure Mukuamu is still in the cornerback group. It appears he may be pulling full time duty as a safety now.

There is a caveat on that, however. If you haven’t realized it, this team loves them some position flex, and Mukuamu may be used in a bit of a hybrid role, providing depth wherever needed in the secondary. His star does seem to be rising, and it will be interesting to see how, and how much he is used this year.

Mike - I’m looking forward to seeing how Dan Quinn utilizes Mukuamu this year. He has good length and can get up there on jump balls, so as nickel corner or a defender in the redzone is perfectly ideal for Mukuamu’s style of play. He didn’t look bad last year when the team gave him opportunities, it wasn’t perfect but also not a complete meltdown. I’ve really got my fingers crossed he makes a push for a key role and shows everyone what he can do.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Nahshon Wright #25
Age: 24
Experience: 3 years
College: Oregon State Beavers

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 128
Tackles: 19
Defensive Stops: 7
Pass Breakup: 1
Interceptions: 1
QB Rate Allowed: 75.8
Penalties: 0

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $1,305,232 (0.6% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $420,310
Base Salary- $1,095,077
Signing Bonus- $210,155

2023 Projection:

Tom - Frankly, Wright should be hoping that Mukuamu is a safety, because he is riding the bubble here. It may come down to how many corners are carried for him to make the roster. He is still in the developmental stage, and his third season may be the make or break one for him. It might be wise to stand around next to special teams coach John Fassel a lot.

Mike - He has huge length and reach, a tough guy to beat when high-pointing the ball, but he lacks physicality and strength. Some said at the time he was a reach when the Cowboys drafted him at the end of Day 2, and so far that narrative looks true. He fits all the thresholds Dan Quinn looks for but struggles to get play time because he too easily bullied on the field. He doesn’t have the recovery speed to make up for it so this makes him a tough projection this year. Unless he comes out the gate a sudden athletic monster then that leaves a lot of questions for his future.

Kelvin Joseph #1
Age: 23
Experience: 3 years
College: Jentucky Wildcats

2022 Stats:
Snaps: 167
Tackles: 11
Defensive Stops: 2
Pass Breakup: 2
Interceptions: 0
QB Rate Allowed: 149.3
Penalties: 3

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $2,122,135 (0.9% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $1,509,514
Base Salary- $1,367,378
Signing Bonus- $754,757

2023 Projection:

Tom - If it might be a make or break year for Wright, I think it definitely is for Joseph. I also think the pair may be in direct competition for the last corner job on the roster. Were I a betting man, Wright would be where my money would go. And it is not inconceivable that neither will make it onto the 53. Preseason is really big for both of them.

Mike - If we could combine Wright and Joseph we could have the perfect cornerback. Joseph is talented athletically but he just seems to lack an understanding of route concepts and how to defend them. It appears to be a lack of commitment with Joseph and this year he needs to answer the question if football is his passion and something he wants to do beyond this season. We are about to find that out or if it was another second-round pick made by Dallas that goes to the trash can.

Additional Mentions:
C.J. Goodwin #29
Myles Brooks #39
Eric Scott Jr. #37
D’Angelo Mandell #38

Mike - Myles Brooks and Eric Scott Jr. have plenty of skills to impress in training camp. Looking forward to see what both can do on the field and whether they can do enough to knock either of the last two on list down and make the CB position even deeper.

Tom - Honestly, Goodwin should be listed with the specialists as Fassel’s ace. His job may be a bit less secure as the other coaches, especially Dan Quinn, might want to put someone else in that role because they can contribute more in a non-ST role, but I think Goodwin will be around another year.

If there is a sleeper in this bunch, it is definitely Scott. The team traded a future pick to take him at the beginning of the sixth round. That is not a cost that should deter them from moving on if needed, or risking getting him on the practice squad. But that was a bit of a statement that they think he has some value, and that can be overly influential in final roster decisions. Keep an eye on him, especially if some others in this group get nicked up.

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