The Dallas Cowboys have enjoyed a great return on the sixth-round pick they invested in Cornerback Anthony Brown in 2016. He has played in all but one game and started 30 of them over the last three seasons. 2019 is the last year of Brown’s rookie contract, and it presents both the player and team with some complex issues.
In a vacuum, Brown is an easy player to re-sign. You drafted him and he’s proven to be durable and competent. He’s played solidly as a starter, exceptionally for depth, and has some versatility as he can defend either the slot or out wide.
But Anthony’s rookie deal is expiring just as the Cowboys in the midst of a lot of big contract decisions, not the least of which is at his position. Pro Bowler Byron Jones is playing 2019 on his fifth-year option, after which he will become an unrestricted free agent.
Byron will count 6.27 million against this year’s cap. His cap hit in 2020, if re-signed, will likely go up to around $14-$15 million. That big increase has to come from somewhere, and it may result in Anthony Brown having to find work elsewhere.
Not helping Brown, if he desires to stay in Dallas, is that Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis both have two years left on their deals. As long as they progress the season as we all hope, Awuzie and Lewis should fill out the top-three at CB for at least 2020. The Cowboys may not need Anthony enough next year to justify the cost of keeping him.
Given his track record, and assuming he doesn’t have any setbacks in 2019, Anthony Brown should attract suitors in 2020 free agency. He turns 26 this December and can be a top-three corner for many teams.
In the modern NFL, the third cornerback is really a starting position. Brown, for example, played on over 67% of the Cowboys’ defensive snaps last year. Damien Wilson, the third linebacker, was in for just about 28% of the snaps.
Unless the Cowboys do wind up trading Jourdan Lewis away this year, as many have speculated, I expect that Dallas will allow Brown to hit the open market in 2020. If he doesn’t get signed then I could easily see them bringing him back on a bargain deal, but I doubt that Anthony wouldn’t find a new team.
The Cowboys should still have depth even if Brown leaves. They spent a fresh sixth-rounder on Michael Jackson last April and also have intriguing undrafted prospects in Donovan Olumba and Chris Westry.
Given all of these factors, 2019 looks like it probably will be Anthony Brown’s last season with the Dallas Cowboys. Plenty can change between now and the next offseason, and hopefully his plays so well that Dallas has a hard time letting him go.