It’s time for one of the highest paid Dallas Cowboys to earn his money. In March of 2012, cornerback Brandon Carr was lured away from the Kansas City Chiefs by a 5-year, $50.1 million contract from Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
At the time, Dallas had become desperate for a top-notch corner due to numerous failed attempts at drafting the next superstar corner. Though Carr was not considered to be on the same level as the game’s top corners, he was one of the two best free agents available that year meaning that he had all the leverage.
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Since joining Dallas, Carr has been above average and steady at times, but he has failed to live up to the expectations (whether they are fair or not) placed on a $50 million player. In fact, Carr’s $10.02 million average annual salary is the 7th highest among all players at his position in the NFL.
With Tuesday’s devastating news that the Cowboys best corner, Orlando Scandrick will miss the season with a torn knee ligament, Carr once again will shoulder the burden of being the best corner on the team.
Carr is not a paragon of health himself. Returning to practice on August 21st after three weeks on the sidelines recovering from a broken hand means that the veteran has missed almost half of the 2015 training camp.
However, Carr should be ready to play in the team’s opener against the New York Giants who employ the lethal wide receiver combination of Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz. Both men are capable of being game breakers and with Scandrick out, one of the New York receivers will be covered by either a rookie (Byron Jones) or a former top-10 draft pick that has been an utter disaster (Morris Claiborne).
It will be unfair for the Cowboys to expect Jones or Claiborne to be put on an island for four quarters each game. Both will need the free safety to help in coverage over the top thus, if Carr is unable to play strong man coverage, Dallas will be unable to dedicate the other safety to run support.
Since joining the Cowboys, Carr has only six interceptions in three seasons but none came in 2014. He has also had his two lowest season tackle totals while wearing the silver and blue (2012 and 2014).
Carr’s low point as a Cowboy came in week 8 of the 2013 season when he was charged with stopping the Detroit Lions’ star wide receiver Calvin Johnson. He spent much of the afternoon in man coverage as Dallas allowed Johnson to grab 14 passes for an unthinkable 329 yards.
So with this in mind, should Cowboy fans burn their Super Bowl tickets or sell them to Seattle Seahawks fans?
Not necessarily. Dallas absolutely needs Carr to be better but he doesn’t have to be an All Pro.
Car is a pretty big corner at 6’0 210 lbs. and he can play a physical style of football. If he is able to get his hands on the receiver at the snap, Carr usually finds himself in position to make the play.
Thus, the health and strength of his surgically repaired right hand becomes a huge variable. A healthy and physical Brandon Carr combined with what should be an improved pass rush with the addition of defensive ends Randy Gregory and Greg Hardy, could help Dallas defensive coordinator Scott Linehan survive the season without Scandrick.
The tired sports cliche of next man up will apply to every team in the league at some point this year. For Dallas, the saying is now a painful reality.
Every corner on the roster will be forced into a more high leverage role than the team had expected. Byron Jones (who has missed significant time during his first NFL training camp with a slight injury to his left shoulder, which was surgically repaired in 2014 causing him to miss most of the college football season) will likely have to start. Morris Claiborne will see plenty of playing time as the third corner, giving him a chance to revive his career in the final year of his rookie contract.
Other corners like Tyler Patmon or Corey White will be called upon in critical times as well, especially as the injuries mount during the season. However, no one on the team needs to improve upon his 2014 performance more than Brandon Carr.
Though it is unrealistic for anyone to think that Scandrick’s absence will be easy to over come, if Carr is able to steady his side of the field and be close to the type of player he is being paid to be, the Cowboys will still be able to field a defense capable of winning a title.