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Free Agent CBs: Will the Cowboys Re-sign Carr or Claiborne?

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Headlines - Morris Claiborne Doing The "Right" Things At Training Camp

Leading up to the March 9th start of NFL free agency, we will be looking at all Dallas Cowboys players under contract for 2017 and how much of the salary cap each position is taking up.

Position Breakdowns: SPECIAL TEAMS | RUNNING BACKS | SAFETIES | TIGHT ENDS | LINEBACKERS | GUARDS & CENTERS | DEFENSIVE TACKLES | OFFENSIVE TACKLES | DEFENSIVE ENDS | QUARTERBACKS | RECEIVERS

Cowboys Capology: Cornerbacks

Before Tony Romo and Tyrone Crawford, Brandon Carr had the worst contract on the Cowboys roster for several seasons. He is now a free agent though, and joining him is the much-maligned Morris Claiborne.

For all the complaints you could have about them, Carr and Claiborne were the Cowboys top two cornerbacks in 2016. Carr was the most reliable and Claiborne, when healthy, was their strongest performer. Both leaving Dallas would create a major hole for the Cowboys defense.

Before we dive into the specifics, let's look at the NFL's 2017 salary cap. The league announced that the cap would be set at $167 million for the upcoming season. Even though this is still a $10 million increase from last year, it's a few million short of what many were projecting.

Confirmed 2017 Salary Cap = $167 million
Cowboys 2016 Cap Rollover = $2.4 million

Dallas Cowboys 2017 Salary Cap = $169.4 million

Now, using that number as our foundation, let's look at how much the Cowboys' cornerbacks are scheduled to cost against the 2017 salary cap.

Orlando Scandrick

CB Orlando Scandrick

Orlando Scandrick

2017 Cap Hit: $5.28 million

It was a tough year for the veteran, missing four games with injury and playing hurt through most of the season. After missing all of 2015 with a major knee injury, Scandrick's status in the Dallas defense has taken a big hit.

Thankfully, Orlando's cap hit isn't too bad. If he can get healthy and close to his previous form next year, $5 million is a reasonable price for a top three cornerback. Scandrick was recently one of the league's best slot cornerbacks and Dallas hopes he can get there again.

Anthony Brown

CB Anthony Brown

Anthony Brown

2017 Cap Hit: $574k

While Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott get most of the glory, Anthony Brown is a big reason that the Cowboys' 2016 draft class is being talked about as an all-time great. Taken in the sixth round, Brown had to play a lot with injuries to Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick. He also had to play both outside and in the slot, performing well in both roles.

Brown's solid play as a rookie and seemingly large potential gives Dallas some bargaining power this year. They can afford to get tough with free agents Claiborne and Brandon Carr, knowing they have Brown as a capable starter.

Leon McFadden

CB Leon McFadden

Leon McFadden

2017 Cap Hit: $775k

Dallas added McFadden to their practice squad in October and he was playing in a game a week later. Getting a roster spot thanks to Morris Claiborne's injury, McFadden was active for nine games in a reserve role. A third-round pick in 2013, Leon hopes he did enough to keep the Cowboys interest.

Jeremiah McKinnon

2017 Cap Hit: $465k

An undrafted free agent who started with Dallas last May, McKinnon was injured during the preseason and eventually waived. Tennessee signed him to their practice squad in November, but once the season was over McKinnon ended up re-joining the Cowboys with a two-year deal.

Sammy Seamster

2017 Cap Hit: $540k

After bouncing between four different teams from 2014 -2015, Seamster landed on the Cowboys practice squad for all of last year. He was signed to a futures contract in January.

Free Agents

Brandon Carr - We will be going deep into the possibility of Carr returning in a minute. Here's a quick overview; Carr turns 31 in May and has never missed a game in nine NFL season, starting every single one of them. He had a solid season in 2016 and is one of the league's best citizens and leaders.

Morris Claiborne - On the other side of the spectrum from Carr in many ways, Claiborne can be a good-to-great starter for any team but cannot stay healthy. He is still just 27, though, and will entice plenty of teams in a thin free agent cornerback market. We will next discuss if Dallas can afford to keep him, and if they should even want to.

Brandon Carr

CB Brandon Carr

2017 Salary Cap Impact

Total Cornerback Cap Hit = $7.63 million
Percentage of 2017 Salary Cap = 4.5%

It's unlikely that Dallas would want to bring back both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys will likely expect for Anthony Browns to move into a full-time starting role and for Orlando Scandrick to remain the slot corner, leaving one spot left in the top three.

Claiborne's probably will get too expensive for the Cowboys. Despite all his red flags, he's still a former sixth-overall pick and only just turned 27 in February. Morris showed his talent early in the year and other teams certainly were watching. Dallas doesn't have the money to compete in a bidding war, so the only way Claiborne comes back is if he sits unsigned long enough to accept a bargain deal from the Cowboys.

Far more likely is that Dallas will re-sign Brandon Carr to a short-term deal. As Jerry Jones said recently, availability is perhaps the most important trait of any player. Carr has that like few cornerbacks in NFL history can claim.

Keeping Carr would probably give the Cowboys their best value for their money. Retaining talent is usually cheaper than replacing it. Of course, we never know if Dallas has their eye on someone specific in the upcoming free agent market.

It's worth noting that the last we heard from Brandon Carr was that he was contemplating retirement, which he said shortly after the Cowboys' playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. Whether or not that's still his stance, or if it was just said in a moment of disappointment and frustration, has yet to be determined.

Thanks to Anthony Brown moving into a starting role on a cheap rookie contract, Dallas won't have to be too worried about the overall payroll at cornerback no matter what they do next. Unfortunately, their overall cap space limits being able to make a big signing in the free agent market.

Still, if Brown keeps developing and Orlando Scandrick gets healthy again, maybe all you need is a reliable guy like Brandon Carr to fill out your primary CB slots. It wouldn't be a dynamic group but it wouldn't be any worse than what got you to 13-3 and a few plays away from the NFC Championship Game.



Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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4 Comments
  • Rich

    I would bring back Claiborne. Even if he misses time again, I would prefer to at least have a superior product on the field during the time he is not injured. Carr seems to play a game of try to keep the receiver in front of me. Doesn’t really try to stop the pass. Just wants to quickly tackle the receiver after the catch.

    • Franklin Jones

      Talented, but his injury history scares me out of relying on him too much. That avulsion of bone from his pelvis sounds horrifying, although I have no medical experience. But I’ve never seen or read about that kind of injury before. Maybe he’s just so reckless on the field that his enthusiasm for the big play keeps putting him on the sideline for weeks at a time. I’d re-work some contracts and make some cap room to sign some UFA’s who fit the system and draft some talent to develop for the future. Keep Carr for stability and consistency and allow Claiborne to test his value on the market. If there aren’t any takers, sign him to a reasonable 2 year.

      • Jess Haynie

        Very sound strategy across the board. Like the way you think.

    • Jess Haynie

      The problem with Claiborne is going to be the market. Right now, it looks like he may get offered more than Dallas is in a position to match. I think they would be tempted to, but this is a situation where their cap issues may prevent them from making a big mistake.

Player News

Amari Cooper Wins 2nd NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award of 2018

Jess Haynie

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Amari Cooper

For the second time in just three weeks, Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper has been named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Cooper scored three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime, to lead the Cowboys to victory last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. He has 10 catches for 217 yards, which led all NFL receivers last week.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

After his record-setting performance during week 14, @AmariCooper9 is the FIRST #DallasCowboys to win NFC Player of the Week twice in a season! → https://t.co/kvBDIeOgBd #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote #ProBowlVote

As the official website stated, Cooper is the first Cowboy to win the award twice in the same year. He's also the first Cowboy to be named Offensive Player of the Week since Ezekiel Elliott in 2016.

Before this year, Elliott was the only Dallas player to win the Offensive award in three seasons. Cooper has now done it twice in three weeks.

Since being traded to the Cowboys, Amari Cooper has amassed 40 catches for 642 yards and six touchdowns.

His wasted time in Oakland may keep Cooper out of the Pro Bowl this year, but he's already become a fan favorite in Cowboys Nation. Congratulations to Amari for another well-deserved award!



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Week 15 Impact Games

Jess Haynie

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Making Sense of the "Garrett Guys" Behind Cowboys Dez Bryant Release

It's hard to believe that we're looking at the Dallas Cowboys potentially clinching the NFC East this week, but that's how dramatic the turnaround has been over the last five games. Week 15 could lock Dallas into the playoffs and give them a lot of freedom over their final two games.

If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)
  2. Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
  3. Chicago Bears (9-4)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
    ----------------------------------
  7. Carolina Panthers (6-7)
  8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
  9. Washington Redskins (6-7)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
  • The Panthers are ahead of the Eagles thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker.
  • The Eagles are ahead of the Redskins thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker. They play each other again in Week 17.
  • The Redskins beat the Panthers earlier this year, but their loss to Philadelphia within their own division negates that tiebreaker.

In truth, there's not much intrigue left for the Cowboys in this regular season. One win gives them the NFC East, and it would take the Saints or Rams dropping all three of their remaining games for Dallas to have a shot at a top-two seed.

So, barring the nearly impossible, Dallas is locked into either the 3rd or 4th seed. They will host one of the Wild Card teams in the first round of the playoffs.

The biggest thing to watch now is how the seeding shakes among the bottom four playoff teams. The Seahawks seem a cut above the likes of Minnesota, Carolina, or one of our NFC East friends, so avoiding them in the first round would be lovely.

Here are this week's games involving the NFC playoff contenders:

Dallas Cowboys @ Indianapolis Colts

We've already discussed what the Cowboys need to do, so let's talk about the Colts. Not only do they have home field advantage this week, but they are fighting for their playoff lives.

Indianapolis is one of four teams with a 7-6 record battling for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC playoffs. The Broncos are also in the mix at 6-7, giving none of these teams any cushion for losing.

Dallas has its own incentive to win, though. If they want to avoid Seattle in the first round, they probably need to take the #3 seed from the Chicago Bears. They need to keep winning and hope for the Bears to drop a game or two.

Ultimately, getting into the playoffs and starting at home is a huge reward. But anything that can help make the road a little easier is worth pursuing. It's no time to rest on your laurels.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

As we just discussed, we'd like to see Chicago drop a few games to give Dallas a shot at the #3 seed. This week isn't the worst opportunity, with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay still not completely eliminated from playoff contention.

Expecting much from the Packers here is unwise. They've had a coaching change and appear to be in a state of organizational disarray. But they still have Rodgers, and crazy things always happens in rivalry games.

So while these are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions, you never know what could happen given the variable elements. By all means, root for the Cheeseheads.

Miami Dolphins @ Minnesota Vikings

Your rooting interest here comes down to a simple question; who do you prefer to play among that last bunch of Wild Card teams? Who does Dallas match up best against between the Vikings, Panthers, and Eagles?

I think we'd all agree that we don't want to see the Eagles a third time. Beating a team three times in one year is tough to do, and especially given how close last week's meeting was.

The Panthers beat Dallas in the season opener, but that was in Carolina and well before the Cowboys were playing at a high level. A second meeting could go very differently, especially with the recent slumping by the Panthers.

Both Carolina and Minnesota are struggling, with one on a five-game losing streak and the latter having lost their last two. The Vikings just fired their offensive coordinator, so neither of these teams appear to be going into the postseason with any real momentum.

At this point, I'd say it's a toss-up between the Panthers and Vikings. Both are much preferable to seeing the Eagles again, so I would just keep rooting for both to win. In either case, they knock out Philadelphia.

We'll reassess the threat level of Carolina and Minnesota as playoff opponents in a few weeks.

Washington Redskins @ Jacksonville Jaguars

I didn't mention the Redskins among those last three teams because they may not win another game this year. Their QB situation is so bad that even the Jaguars look good by comparison.

Granted, Jacksonville is lousy right now. Washington might be able to go down there and get a win, but neither team has anything to play for now. This one may come down to whether or not the Jaguars have gone into tank mode.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Seattle just walloped the Niners 43-16 a couple of weeks ago, and changing venues is unlikely to make that much difference. The Seahawks are a legit NFC contender and San Francisco is already thinking about the offseason. A Seattle loss would be great, but it ain't happening this week.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams

While catching the Rams and getting a top-two seed would be great, it's barely plausible. The far more concrete benefit here is seeing the Eagles lose and getting them further away from a possible Wild Card spot.

In fact, an Eagles' loss this week would give Dallas the NFC East even if the Cowboys fall in  Indianapolis. That's not the way we want to win the division, but you take what you can get.

With the breaking news that Carson Wentz is unlikely to play this week with a back injury, you'd generally think this suits the Cowboys' interests. But Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles is still the backup in Philadelphia, so is anything really for certain?

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

We have every reason to root for Carolina here. For one, it helps the Panthers stay ahead of the Eagles in the Wild Card race. Also, it brings the Saints one loss closer to possibly being caught by Dallas. A Saints win doesn't really benefit us all.



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Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess

John Williams

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Ezekiel Elliott has Huge Day vs Eagles Thanks to Receiving Prowess

The Dallas Cowboys came away with a huge win against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, putting them in a commanding position in the NFC East. They're up two games in the division and one of the more underrated story lines from the victory is Ezekiel Elliott's game. He had a huge day that no one is talking about.

Elliott had 28 carries for 113 yards and then caught 12 passes on 13 targets en route to his big performance in the 29-23 win over the Eagles. That's probably the quietest 40 touch, 192 total yard game you'll ever hear about. And yet, that's where we are. Please read that stat line again, because in all of our talk about Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and the defense, Ezekiel Elliott's stat line is absolutely ridiculous.

The receiving element that Elliott is providing the biggest difference to the offense this season. He's been a huge asset to Dak Prescott in the passing game as both a primary target and a check down option in the short part of the field. If Elliott isn't showing that he's the best running back in the league, with what he's doing with a broke down offensive line, then people will never give him the credit he's due.

For the last three years, the Dallas Cowboys and their fan base has known what an elite player the Cowboys have in Elliott. He's easily one of the best runners in the NFL, but if you talk to the general NFL fanbase or analysts around the league, Elliott doesn't get the same kind of love as players like Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell receive from the national media. The knock against Elliott has been that he doesn't bring the same value as a receiver. With what he has done over the last six weeks, and really all season long, it's safe to say, that won't be a knock against the Cowboys All-Pro running back.

Among running backs this season, Ezekiel Elliott ranks sixth in targets (77), fifth in receptions (65). seventh in yards (502), and is tied for 12th in receiving touchdowns with three. Elliott is the seventh highest rated running back when targeted among running backs with at least 50 targets this season.

Over the last six weeks, since the Amari Cooper trade, only Christian McCaffrey has more targets, receptions, and yards than Ezekiel Elliott.

Elliott's previous career high was in 2016 when he caught 32 passes on 39 targets. With three games left in the season, Elliott has more than doubled his previous career high from that season. Over the last six weeks, he's caught 40 passes with an average of 6.7 receptions per game.

Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best total yardage season in the NFL. If he continues at his current per game averages, Elliott would finish the season with 330 carries for 1,553 rushing yards, 80 catches on 100 targets for 618 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He's been great this year, but he's been even better over the last six games. At his per game averages for the last six games, over a 16 game season, Elliott's numbers would look like this; 363 carries for 1,715 yards rushing, 107 receptions on 120 targets for 872 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.

It's rare that Ezekiel Elliott has a game like he did on Sunday and it goes largely unnoticed by Cowboys Nation, but that's just how tremendous Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper were. In a game where the Cowboys got big games and big plays through the passing game, it was Elliott's steadiness that held things together and helped sustain drives like the fourth and one conversion in overtime. Even with Amari Cooper elevating his game since coming to the Cowboys, there's no question that Ezekiel Elliott is the Cowboys best skill position player. Expect more big games for Elliott as the Cowboys continue to "Feed Zeke."



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