At the cornerback position, the Dallas Cowboys appear to have one of the best groups in the NFL heading into the 2019 season. It’s a deep group with Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Jourdan Lewis at the top of the depth chart. Michael Jackson has the talent to play on the inside and outside, which makes for a nice fifth corner if called upon. After 2019, however, the cornerback group could look drastically different.
It’s been assumed that Byron Jones, who will be a free agent in 2020, will get an extension with the Dallas Cowboys and find himself manning the right side of the defense for years to come. As Jones recovers from offseason hip surgery, it appears his contract talks have been put on hold for a bit.
Another assumption that’s been made is that Anthony Brown, who will also be a free agent in 2020, will be allowed to walk in free agency. Brown has been excellent for the Dallas Cowboys in the run and pass game as their primary slot corner, so he could find a significant contract on the free agent market.
Since Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard was hired and made the passing game coordinator, it’s also been assumed that Lewis doesn’t fit what Richard wants in a long, lengthy defensive back. Yes, Lewis isn’t the tallest corner at 5-10, per Pro Football Reference, but his arm length had him in the 60th percentile at corner coming out of college. Each of the last two offseasons we’ve attempted to find trade partners for Lewis, but the Dallas Cowboys continue to hold onto what many feels, including Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com, is the Cowboys best cover corner.
With Byron Jones rehabbing his injury, the Cowboys have gotten to see a lot of Jourdan Lewis filling in at that right cornerback spot with the first team, and he hasn’t disappointed.
This from Bryan Broaddus covering OTAs:
“It’s never easy to have to deal with Randall Cobb out of the slot, but give Jourdan Lewis a lot of credit for denying him the ball on a dig route. Cobb did his best to attempt to shake loose from Lewis, but he never allowed him to get away. Lewis was physical off the line. As the route went up the field and when Cobb made his break, Lewis was right there to knock the ball away from him without interfering. I’m just thinking that we all might need to be careful throwing dirt on Jourdan Lewis – the guy is a heck of a player.”
Bryan Broaddus – DallasCowboys.com
And then this also from Broaddus from the Dallas Cowboys minicamp:
“Having to deal with Amari Cooper’s route running ability forces most cornerbacks to wilt. The pressure that he puts on them in those first three steps is impressive. Cooper tried to break down Jourdan Lewis — but Lewis was having none of it. Lewis patiently stayed in his pedal and waited for Cooper to make his move. He didn’t try and jump the route or overcommit to his movement. Without touching Cooper, Lewis simply adjusted and worked with him up the field, never allowing Cooper an inch of separation.”
Bryan Broaddus – DallasCowboys.com
Randall Cobb and Amari Cooper are two of the better route runners on the team and very difficult covers. They’re veteran players who’ve had a lot of success in the NFL. In limited snaps, Jourdan Lewis has shown the ability to cover in the NFL and as we saw against Alvin Kamara in 2018, completely shut down one of the very best receiving backs in the game.
With the opportunity that Jourdan Lewis has had to play on the outside during these practices, he could make the front office and coaching staff rethink its plan at cornerback in 2019 and in the 2020 offseason.
Instead of giving Byron Jones an extension, the Cowboys front office could opt to let him play out the season and see if he repeats his performance from the first half of the 2018 season. If Jones is slow to return from his hip surgery and Jourdan Lewis continues to excel on the outside, the Cowboys could opt to let Jones walk in free agency and resign Anthony Brown to continue as the starting slot cornerback.
Remember, the Cowboys can sign Byron Jones to an extension. They’ll find a way to afford him if they want to afford him. If for some reason they do let him walk, it won’t be because of money. And, for the record, the Dallas Cowboys should get a deal done with Jones sooner rather than later. If Jones has a repeat performance of the first half of 2018, it’ll raise his price tag in 2020.
By slowplaying his contract, however, the Cowboys may find themselves changing course on their future plans at the cornerback position, courtesy of Jourdan Lewis. What they loved about Lewis when he came out of Michigan still holds true today. He’s a competitive playmaker who will take challenges head on. The longer Byron Jones sits out, the more the Dallas Cowboys could potentially see a future for Jourdan Lewis as an outside cornerback for the defense.