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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.

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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.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Losing Linebackers Coach Matt Eberflus to Colts

Jess Haynie

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Matt Eberflus, Sean Lee

Multiple sources are reporting Matt Eberflus — who has been the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys — will leave to join the Indianapolis Colts as the new defensive coordinator. Eberflus has been with Dallas since 2011, having joined Rob Ryan’s staff when Ryan become the coordinator for the Cowboys’ defense.

He has been the linebackers coach during his entire Dallas tenure and was also named passing game coordinator in 2016.

Tom Pelissero on Twitter

With Josh McDaniels ticketed for the #Colts, former #Cowboys assistant Matt Eberflus is expected to come along as defensive coordinator, I’m told. Lot of parts falling in place now.

If not the Colts, some thought Matt Eberflus might end up replacing Matt Patricia as the defensive coordinator in New England. Either way, it does not appear Dallas could have kept him around while Rod Marinelli remains in his current position.

Eberflus’ work in Dallas speaks for itself, and primarily through LB Sean Lee.

He has been Lee’s position coach for all but his rookie season, and in that time Lee has been one of the top defensive players in all of football.

Beyond Lee, Eberflus has also been able to get quality play out of mid-round picks like Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson. We also saw Jaylon Smith make significant progress this season.

Given Matt Eberflus has never worked with Josh McDaniels before, the fact he was on the Colts’ radar says a lot.

Make no mistake; the Cowboys lost a good one here.

Don’t panic, however. Coach Marinelli has cast a very wide net during his time in the NFL and there are a lot of potential guys, some with plenty of experience, that Dallas might look to.

It’s entirely possible that Eberflus’ replacement will be someone who Marinelli spends 2018 grooming to take over as the defensive coordinator.

Still, of all the coaching changes so far for Dallas, this one hurts most.

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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Hire Longtime Bengals OL Coach Paul Alexander

Thus far the 2018 offseason has brought a plethora of change to the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Now it is being reported the Cowboys have hired a brand new offensive line coach, former Cincinnati Bengals’ Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander.

Alex Marvez on Twitter

Source tells @sportingnews that Paul Alexander hired as new @dallascowboys offensive line coach

Alexander coached with the Bengals for over 20 years, and replaces the same man in Dallas who replaces him in Cincinnati, Frank Pollack. Alexander has also been the Bengals assistant head coach since 2003.

The Cowboys recently lost an assistant head coach when Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia left for Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders.

Per usual, the hire has been met with mixed reactions from Cowboys Nation.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

Since 2003, CIN has had only one season where they finished top-10 in Yards per attempt on the ground… They’ve been bottom-5 in the league 5 times in that span… That’s the OL Coach DAL just hired.

The hiring of an offensive line coach who’s rushing attack finished bottom five in the league in rushing yards per attempt five times since 2003 doesn’t look too great on paper. He will also teach with different techniques and styles than previous Cowboys OL coaches, which could potentially set back the offensive line early in the season.

Plus, respected Bengals’ writer Joe Goodberry did not exactly love the hire for the Cowboys.

Goodberry on Twitter

Pretty bad https://t.co/fysjZqCQ6l

Regardless, this is still a very talented offensive line and one which should lead an effective ground attack based on their talent alone. 2017 proved further that coaching matters a lot in the NFL however, and the wrong hire could set back even the most talented of units.

We will just have to wait and see how this 2018 season ends up playing out.

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Dallas Cowboys

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job

Sean Martin

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Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job 1

By keeping all three top coaches (Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli) in place for 2018, there isn’t a Dallas Cowboys coaching hire that feels like they “must” get it right to contend next season. This is how it should be.

Producing nine wins, despite missing key players throughout the season, the Cowboys are changing things up at the position coach level to hopefully introduce new ideas and give the talent on this team a better chance at sustained success.

One coaching vacancy that needs to be filled by the right guy above any else is on the offensive line, where things haven’t been the same since the great Bill Callahan departed.

Frank Pollack took his place, and now finds himself with the Cincinnati Bengals after not being retained by Dallas this offseason.

Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates For Cowboys Vacant OL Coach Job

Tom Cable (Stephen Brashear / Getty Images)

The first name that was thrown around in consideration for the Cowboys job was Tom Cable, which sent a panic throughout Cowboys Nation before Cable decided to sign with John Gruden and the Raiders.

Cable had been coaching the Seahawks’ OL, a position that franchise has not valued in some time, and struggled to develop any talent in protection of their franchise QB Russell Wilson.

Now, two new names have emerged as candidates to coach the likes of two-time 1st Team All-Pro LT Tyron Smith, 1st Team All-Pro C Travis Frederick, and two-time 1st Team All-Pro RG Zack Martin.

Mike Solari and Paul Alexander

Paul Alexander has already met with the Dallas Cowboys, looking for work after 23 seasons with the Bengals. During this time, Alexander served as Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach, in addition to his duties as their OL coach.

Judging on reactions out of Cincinnati to Alexander’s departure, the Bengals offensive line regressed under him in 2017, warranting change from a franchise that is as reluctant as any to move on from coaches.

Goodberry on Twitter

Paul Alexander better be gone

Most recently, Mike Solari has served as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants — far from a renowned unit around the NFL lately. He does have previous experience with the Cowboys, having served as an assistant OL and special teams coach here from 1987-88.

From 2006-07, Solari did reach the rank of offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, which shows the level of respect that the 30-year NFL coaching veteran has earned.

He will be the Dallas Cowboys’ next interview for their open OL coach position.

Cowboys at Raiders: La'el Collins Faces Toughest Test Yet In Khalil Mack 1

Dallas Cowboys RT La’el Collins, RG Zack Martin

Depth at tackle, a long-term answer at left guard, and an extension for Zack Martin are among the questions facing the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. Whoever is in charge of keeping this unit up to standard in 2018 though, may hold the keys to getting the entirety of the Cowboys’ program back on track.

Whether it’s Alexander, Solari, or another outside candidate yet to emerge, Inside The Star will keep you updated on the Cowboys’ ongoing coaching search.

Tell us what you think about “Mike Solari, Paul Alexander Candidates for Cowboys Vacant OL Coaching Job” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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