Dallas Cowboys Have Thrown Too Many Resources At Cornerbacks
In scientific terms, a black hole is a piece of space with a gravitational pull so strong that nothing can escape from it. The Dallas Cowboys have fallen into a black hole of their own so powerful that the rest of the defense has been drawn into its grasp, unable to escape for almost a decade. That black hole is the cornerback position.
There is no position at which the Cowboys have thrown more resources than corner. An NFL team has a finite amount of collateral, be it salary-cap space or draft picks so if an overabundance of the team’s equity is repeatedly absorbed by one position on the field, the rest of the team will be drawn into the abyss.
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The struggles of the Cowboys defense can be traced back to their ongoing pursuit of a shutdown corner. Dallas has neglected other positions because owner and general manager Jerry Jones continues to chase the great white whale this is a Pro-Bowl corner.
The black hole began to form in 2012 when Dallas released 2003 draft pick (No. 5 overall) Terence Newman for salary cap reasons. The former Pro Bowler Newman has continued to be a productive player for the Cincinnati Bengals and now has signed with the Minnesota Vikings.
Newman’s departure left a hole at corner and like the Israelites of the Old Testament, the Cowboys have been wondering through the desert for the professional football equivalent of 40 years looking for a star corner. As they have chased this position, the rest of the defense has been neglected, especially the defensive line.
Since 2004, the Cowboys have spent 13 of their 80 draft picks (16.25%) on corners including first round picks on three players (Mike Jenkins in 2008, Morris Claiborne in 2012 and Byron Jones in 2015). Jenkins is no longer on the team and Claiborne has been one of the biggest first round busts in team history meaning that yet again Dallas felt the need to spend a first round pick on a corner in this year’s draft.
Yet, draft picks are far from the only resource to fall into the black hole that is the Dallas Cowboys cornerback position. They have also spent millions of dollars on free agents in an attempt to fix their draft mistakes.
In 2012, Dallas felt the need to sign free-agent corner Brandon Carr to a five-year $50.1 million contract. Carr has not lived up to that contract and now Dallas is attempting to renegotiate his deal.
Had the Cowboys drafted a quality corner in 2008, rather than Mike Jenkins, they would not have felt the need to sign Brandon Carr in 2012 since fifth round draft pick Orlando Scandrick had already proven to be a starting caliber corner. Carr is eating up a disproportionate chunk of the Cowboys’ salary cap preventing the team from possibly keeping players such as DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray or being able to make other impactful moves (Adrian Peterson perhaps).
In addition, if Jenkins had turned out to be a quality player worthy of starting in the NFL. Dallas would not have traded up seven spots in the 2012 draft and given up a second round pick to draft Claiborne.
A second round pick should be a starting caliber player. By trading up for Claiborne, the Cowboys forfeited the chance to add another starter to their roster.
Had Claiborne been worthy of being the number six pick, Dallas could have spent this year’s first round pick on defensive line help which was plentiful when Dallas drafted at pick 27 last night. But once again, Jerry Jones and his brain trust attempted to fill the hole that seemingly can’t be filled.
Cowboys’ fans must pray that Byron Jones is the answer at corner (though Jerry Jones said that Byron Jones might play safety which would not help the cornerback conundrum at all). If Byron Jones can be a solid player, Dallas can move on from the pursuit of defensive backs and focus on areas of the defense that have been neglected while Jerry Jones has been fishing for a corner.