When we start talking about underperforming Dallas Cowboys players in 2014, one name always floats to the top of the list. And that name is Brandon Carr. And that’s mainly due to the veteran cornerback’s massive salary. But after his third underwhelming season in Dallas, is there anything Carr can do not to be cut by this franchise in the offseason?
According to Cowboys’ owner and general manager Jerry Jones, the answer is yes.
"““Oh I think that one of the things that create a challenge for him is it’s like the same one that a No. 1 draft pick has,” Jones told ESPNDallas earlier this month. “The expectation of what he’s supposed to bring to the table is one that is really very difficult to meet. Now has he played at a Pro Bowl level? No, he has not. And therein lies the issue.”"
And it’s fairly big issue. Actually, the biggest. According to Spotrac.com, Carr is the fifth highest paid cornerback in the NFL based on contract value ($50.1 million). But according to Pro Football Focus, the seventh-year veteran ranks #213 out of a possible 225 in performance against every other cornerback in the NFL. With Carr on schedule to make a whopping $12.7 million salary cap dent in 2015, how could the Cowboys justify keeping him when there are at least 212 better and cheaper options out there?
Jones has always been known to be very loyal to his players. Even to a fault. Apparently, nothing has changed.
"“(Carr) obviously started off behind the eight-ball this year with the loss of his mother, time lost, but he’s come back in and I’m not as hard on him as possibly it looks like we should be or others are because I know that he does give us a skill level and a size component back there that is very important to us right now….I’m glad we got him. I’m glad I‘m paying him. Like everybody you’d like to have your deal squared up more to the value of where it is but that’s just part of this. And he’s very capable. He plays the ball well. One of his skills is how well he plays the ball, and let’s hope that he makes that interception at [a] time that [will] down in history for the Dallas Cowboys.”"
So, that is the $50 million question. Could an epic playoff performance, or as Jones put it: one historic interception by Carr erase his multitude of sins from the past? Well, the starting cornerback’s recent play has in fact been trending upwards. And Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett sees the improvement in Carr’s play.
"“He’s done a really nice job in coverage,” Garrett told ESPNDallas back on December 17th. “I think he’s tackling better, and I think he’s showing up more as a physical guy just like the rest of our defense. We’ve got to do a better job of preventing some of those big plays.”"
According to PFF, two of Carr’s best performances have come in the last three weeks. In Week 14 against the Chicago Bears, he earned a +1.5 rating, recording three tackles and one pass defend. Unfortunately, it was in that very same game that Carr had two touchdowns scored on him.
In last weekend’s win over the Indianapolis Colts, Carr earned his best rating of the season from PFF. (+2.6) He allowed only two catches out of the five times he was targeted for a total of 21 yards. He also had four tackles and two pass defends. That’s a good sign for player who has appeared hesitant to play physical in the past.
Despite his recent performances, I believe there is next to nothing Carr can do to avoid the chopping block this offseason. The Cowboys’ front office could offer him a chance to stay in Dallas if he agrees to take a drastic reduction in salary, similar to what they did a couple years ago with an underperforming Doug Free. The veteran tackle is now the glue of the most talented offensive line in football. Still, the fact that Carr has been one of the highest paid, sub-par corners in NFL history can not be so easily erased.