After the season-ending knee injury suffered by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne in the first quarter of Sunday night’s blowout victory over the New Orleans Saints, speculation about whom the Cowboys could pick up in free agency to replace him have begun to spring up. And the name that seems to be coming up the most is veteran All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey. But would Bailey be a good fit in Dallas?
Well, let’s address the first, most obvious thing: his age. Bailey is 36 years old. The Cowboys front office, and more specifically assistant director of player personnel Will McClay, has a recent track record of preferring young, unproven players over established veterans.
Late last month, Bailey was waived in favor of an undrafted rookie by the New Orleans Saints. Just over three weeks ago, the defensive back needy Detroit Lions kicked the tires on Bailey. Although reports say the workout went well, ultimately the team said “no thanks”. I’m not sure if the veteran has anything left in the tank.
But Bailey claims that a foot injury, which plagued him all year with the Broncos in 2013, was the cause for his release in New Orleans. And that he is now fully healthy and willing to play any position in the defensive backfield. (corner, safety, nickle)
Could Dallas use Bailey? The Cowboys have struggled in the defensive backfield this season. But the return of cornerback Orlando Scandrick in Week Three has seemed to solidified this group the past couple weeks. The one area Dallas could probably use Bailey at this point would be safety, as both starters Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox have a similar heavy-hitter style. And this team really needs a playmaking ballhawk at the position. But I’d personally be afraid to stunt the growth of second-year safety Wilcox, who is c0nsidered the lesser of the two.
Still, Bailey’s impressive resume surely requires at least a cursory look. A former first round pick (seventh overall) out of Georgia by the Washington Redskins in 1999, Bailey has been elected to the Pro Bowl twelve times, an All-Pro seven times and was made a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He should be a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer once he decides to retire. Which appears to be pretty soon.
Despite Bailey’s various accolades, I believe the Cowboys will instead use this opportunity to promote from within. Journeyman cornerback Sterling Moore will replace Claiborne as Dallas’ third cornerback. Moore’s stellar play in the slot had him rumored to be destined for this role prior to Sunday’s injury.
Undrafted rookie corner Tyler Patmon should fill-in the depth chart nicely behind Moore. Patmon exploded onto the consciousness of Cowboys Nation after a breakout performance in Dallas’ third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. In that showcase, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy recorded six tackles, two passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one defensive touchdown. Since then, Cowboys fans have been eager to see this young man get some real snaps in the regular season.
The Cowboys also have Micah Pellerin on their practice squad, a 25-year old journeyman cornerback who played a couple games for Dallas in 2013. There is a possibility he gets called up.
Personally, I’d like Dallas to take this opportunity to call up defensive end Michael Sam from their practice squad instead. The Cowboys desperately need help when it comes to their pass rush. And at some point, they need to find out if Sam can help them in that area or not.