What's been the biggest surprise of the Cowboys' offseason so far? You might say the return of Morris Claiborne or that Dallas has yet to sign or re-sign any pass rushers. Maybe it's the lack of activity in general.
For many, myself included, the biggest shock comes from Brandon Carr still being a Cowboy. I expected he would be released in the weeks before free agency began. When that didn't happen I figured he'd certainly be gone within a few days. I was especially confident after Claiborne re-signed, thinking the Cowboys had covered their bases enough to let Carr go.
But Carr's still here, and the more I look at it the more it seems there are only two possible outcomes:
- Carr is being held as insurance until after the draft. If Dallas ends up adding Jalen Ramsey or some other significant rookie then they can cut Carr and use the cap savings to pay rookies, incentives on next year's deal, and perhaps carry some of the space over to 2017.
- Dallas will ride with Carr for one more year and release him for just $2.7 million in dead money next offseason. There will be an $11 million gain in salary cap space from him coming off the books then, money that can be used to re-sign Travis Frederick and make other moves.
I know Dallas visited with Nolan Carroll last week but that was before Claiborne re-signed. The Cowboys would have to see Carroll as an upgrade over Carr to want to cut Brandon and spend a large chunk of those savings on replacing him with Carroll. There's no empirical evidence that Carroll is a better player.
What's more, that move would reduce their flexibility for the draft. Let's say they drafted Ramsey; do Carroll or Claiborne really want to be the fourth cornerback? Granted, Claiborne's new deal came with little guaranteed money an Dallas could release him. But I think they're hoping that the 26-year-old might be worth a longer deal if he can build on last year's development.
That really speaks to the issue; Brandon Carr is just part of a very tumultuous and unpredictable situation at the cornerback position. Orlando Scandrick is coming back from major knee repair and is 29-years-old. He may not be the same guy anymore. Claiborne is a huge x-factor. Young prospects like Terrance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye have flashed good things but are still very raw. On top of all that, we're still not entirely sure if Byron Jones is a safety or a corner.
As a fan it's tough to separate frustration from looking the business perspective. Carr may not be a high-yield investment but he's also low risk; he'll be on the field when you need him. He hasn't missed a game in eight NFL seasons, which a pretty remarkable feat for any player and especially a cornerback.
For all I know, Carr will be released about five minutes after this article posts. However, at this point it's a move which feels like it would've happened by now if it was happening at all. I think Dallas would have wanted to give Carr the chance to be in the free agent market and would've made him an early June-1st cut if they expect to cut him after the draft.
Obviously, we won't know for sure until after the draft. Dallas may be taking the colder business approach and will release Carr when it best suits their interests instead of the player's. If we've learned anything about Stephen Jones and his increasing influence in management, it's that he doesn't let personal feelings affect his decisions as much as his father.
For now, Brandon Carr is still a Cowboy. Make of it what you will.