We went into the 2017 NFL Draft knowing that the Dallas Cowboys needed to add talent to their secondary. They clearly knew it too, spending four of their top-six picks on defensive backs. Now, the question is what all these new arrivals mean for the current talent and the projected final roster.
To get us started, let’s quickly recap the personnel moves since the end of last season. The Cowboys said goodbye to several key players in free agency while adding a couple of veteran replacements.
- CB Brandon Carr (click here for full story)
- CB Morris Claiborne (click here for full story)
- S Barry Church (click here for full story)
- S J.J. Wilcox (click here for full story)
- CB Orlando Scandrick
- CB Anthony Brown
- S Byron Jones
- S Jeff Heath
- S Kavon Frazier
There are the primary names to be concern with. There are other players under contract, such as cornerback Leon McFadden and quarteback-turned-safety Jameil Showers. However, these guys are likely no more than training camp bodies. We’re going to focus on the guys who figure to be on the 2017 roster.
As we said at the outset, Dallas clearly recognized their needs and last week’s draft reflected it. The Cowboys drafted two on Friday night with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis in the second and third rounds. On Saturday they spent sixth-round picks on safety Xavier Woods and CB Marquez White.
Generally a team will have 8-10 defensive backs on their 53-man roster. These draft picks in addition to the current talent gives Dallas 11 guys competing for spots. At least one guy, if not a couple more, will be left out.
Now, to be fair, sixth-round picks are hardly guaranteed to make the roster. You might make an exception in the case of Xavier Woods, though, given reports that Dallas had him highly ranked on their board.
Also, after seeing what Anthony Brown did last year as a sixth-round pick, you can be sure that Woods and Marquez White will not be taken lightly in the months ahead. Teams never cut drafted players lightly, so they will get every opportunity to make the team.
The fallout from the talent additions in the draft seems to have already started. On Friday night, just minutes after Dallas drafted Awuzie, reports started that the Cowboys were trying to trade veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Jerry Jones has since denied those reports by Scandrick, but Orlando has made comments through the media that suggest he thought the rumor was true.
For now, we’ll take Jerry at his word and assume Scandrick will still be a Cowboys in 2017. It makes more sense; can you really trust Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis, and Awuzie to do the heavy lifting with just one year of combined experience? Do you really want Nolan Carroll as your only veteran corner?
The Cowboys’ hope will be that Awuzie, Brown, and Lewis develop to the point that Dallas trusts them to be their top three corners in 2018. They can then cut both Scandrick and Carroll for cap relief. Right now, cutting or trading Scandrick would generate more dead money ($6.16 million) than his 2017 cap hit ($5.28 million) counts.
The logical plan is for Dallas to have their top three youngsters and two veterans on this year’s roster. I would expect for Marquez White to end up on the practice squad unless and injury opens the door for him.
If you’re a fan of Jeff Heath being a starter next year than this was a good draft week for you. Dallas did not add anyone in the upper rounds who would be expected to come in and compete immediately for the job. If anything, the Cowboys’ obvious focus on drafting defensive backs with ball skills speaks to why they are comfortable with Heath moving forward.
The addition of Xavier Woods in the sixth round should be far more concerning to projected backups Robert Blanton and Kavon Frazier. If we assume that there will only be the traditional two backups spots available, someone is going to be left without a chair when the music stops.
Even though he just signed with the team on April 20th, the veteran Blanton should probably be most concerned. We know it was a one-year deal don’t have details yet on the money. However, we can safely assume it’s a minimal amount and Dallas left themselves able to easily release Blanton depending on how the draft and the remainder of the offseason unfolded.
My current projection is that Heath and Byron Jones will start while Woods and Frazier are the backups. Blanton’s hope will be that neither of those young players show that they’re ready for major minutes and Dallas leans on the veteran as a primary reserve. However, Frazier will have every chance to earn that role in his second year.