When the Dallas Cowboys take the field for the start of training camp next month, there will be many veteran players battling younger and newer guys to hold on to their starting spots. This is nothing new for many of them. But it could be more challenging for cornerback Mike Jenkins then for any other player.
Jenkins, 27, will be entering his 5th season with the Boys. He has been the team’s cornerstone right cornerback for the past three seasons and started 43 of last 48 season games. His scarce highlights include a lone pro bowl bid after having a career high five interceptions in 2009.
In the 2011 season, Jenkins missed four games due to injuries to his knee, neck, and shoulder. And even though many critics claimed that he lacked toughness, Jenkins played through a severe shoulder injury this year and opted to wait until the end of the season to have surgery.
Just when Jenkins thought that the physical injuries were over, the mental ones began. The Cowboys released his team-mate Terence Newman and signed top corner free agent Brandon Carr on the same day. The former Kansas City Chief was signed to a 5 year, $50.1 million deal.
And to drive the dagger even further, they traded up to the #6 spot in the following month’s draft and selected LSU’s cornerback, Morris Claiborne. Claiborne is considered to be the #1 defensive back in the entire draft by most annalists.
Dallas still have 5th year corner Orlando Scandrick, who was signed to a 5 year $27 million deal last September. He is considered the team’s top slot/nickel cornerback. And Scandrick will most likely be staying put as the third cornerback on the depth chart when the season begins. So unless Jenkins can win a battle and play in the slot, he will more than likely be sitting behind them all come September. So there is little doubt to why Jenkins is upset about his new position on the team and now demanding a trade.
From Owner Jerry Jones to Vice President Stephen Jones to Head Coach Jason Garrett to Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, to newly hired Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson; they have all expressed that Jenkins is, and will remain a Dallas Cowboy for the upcoming season. They claim that since the NFL has become a more “pass happy league”, you just can’t have enough cornerbacks on the roster. Especially considering the possibility of three or four wide receiver sets which may include a serious receiving threat at tight end to boot. And as the Cowboys have found out in past seasons, there are always future injuries to consider.
But there are other players to consider as well. The Cowboys still have 2011 rookie free agent Mario Butler, who played on the practice squad for the entire season last year. There is also 2010 rookie free agent Teddy Williams, who has been on the practice squad for the past two seasons, converting from cornerback, to wide receiver, to cornerback again. Then there’s 5th year journeyman C.J. Wilson, who played his first four seasons with the Panthers.
But the player that seems to be turning heads thus far is Arkansas’ 2012 rookie free agent, Isaac Madison. Sure this is just at OTA’s (and without pads), but coaches liked how Madison covered his receiver, the fact he was always around the ball, and his handful of interceptions.
But the main thing to remember is that Jenkins is playing in the final year of his rookie contract. He is scheduled to make a measly $1.05 million this season, which is very reasonable for a back-up cornerback. But what if a team approaches the Cowboys in serious need of a cornerback (such as Detroit, Indianapolis, or possibly Oakland) and offers a possible 1st or 2nd round draft pick for his services? Would the Cowboys jump on it ? They would be crazy if they didn’t.
I have a feeling that once the 2012 season is over, Jenkins is history. He will not even look at a Cowboy uniform again, unless he is playing against them. The Cowboys wouldn’t receive anything from his departure, except possibly a 4th to 7th round compensatory pick in 2013.
I may be wrong here, but I have a strong feeling that a cornerback like Mario Butler, or possibly even Isaac Madison may step up and show their abilities during training camp or in the preseason. And that would surely mark the end of Jenkins career here in Dallas. The Cowboys could always use another 1st or 2nd round draft selection as they continue to build this team for the future. But where does Jenkins future hold ? We shall see.