Back in March, Dallas signed veteran cornerback Nolan Carroll to help cover the departures of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency. A few months later, the Cowboys are flush with young corners and Carroll just got arrested with a DWI charge. Could these landscape changes lead to Carroll being released before the season opener?
Dallas signed Carroll before drafting corners Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Marquez White last April. Along with second-year stud Anthony Brown, this gives the Cowboys four young corners they will likely want to keep on the roster. They also have veteran Orlando Scandrick, who is still expected to have a major role.
Obviously, counting on three rookies is dangerous for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Brown's success in 2016 could easily deceive you into thinking that these new players will also hit the ground running, but history says that the cornerback position is one of the toughest for kids to make the professional transition.
Even if the Cowboys are fortunate enough to have all of three rookies work out, injuries can quickly change things. Just one of these players going down in training camp or preseason could make Carroll a much bigger need. Given his track record, Orlando Scandrick is always a prime candidate for some sort of medical calamity.
This isn't to say that Dallas is actively looking to dump Carroll. There is no indication of that at this time, although Jason Garrett did call his DWI a “disappointing situation.” The Cowboys have shown loyalty to players with even more serious infractions, though.
All of this aside, you may be thinking that there's no way Dallas would release Carroll given his contract and the $3 million in guaranteed money he received. History says otherwise.
The Jasper Brinkley Paradigm
Cutting a significant free agent the same year that he was signed is unusual, but not unprecedented. In fact, it happened just two years ago for the Cowboys.
In 2015, Dallas signed veteran linebacker Jasper Brinkley because of roster uncertainty. They weren't sure if they could re-sign Rolando McClain or what might happen in the draft, plus Sean Lee was coming off another major knee injury.
Even with McClain having to start the year suspended, the Cowboys felt good enough about their young players that Brinkley became expendable. They paid out his $2 million in guaranteed money and released him a few days prior to the season opener. Brinkley went from a potential starter to being cut just a few months later.
The difference between Brinkley and Nolan Carroll's money is just $1 million. That's not much in the grand scheme of things of the NFL, and especially given Carroll's DWI incident. His value could be severely lessened by missed games.
Nolan Carroll Suspension Likely
Safety T.J. McDonald was recently hit with an eight-game suspension for a first-time DUI offense. Prescription medication was involved, though, and may have prompted the harder judgment than the typical alcohol-related offense.
At this point, there are no unusual or extreme details from Nolan Carroll's case. There is no reason to think he will get more than the standard two-game ban, but even that could be enough to kill his value for the Cowboys.
As he was when they originally signed him, Nolan will remain an insurance policy at least through July and August. Dallas will have to see where their young players are after preseason, and who's still healthy at cornerback, before making any final decisions. There is no financial incentive to release Carroll before then, anyway.
Given everything that's happened since he signed, Nolan Carroll's security is far less than most new free agents. We'll have to wait and see if it's enough to cost him his job before it even starts.