The Dallas Cowboys as an organization have done a really superb job of avoiding chasing some of the “big money” free agents over the past several off-seasons and instead focused on more cost-effective players that can fill specific roles with the team. Dallas followed that formula once again in 2017 with the signing of cornerback Nolan Carroll, but determining his specific defensive role is somewhat cloudy at the moment.
On March 11, 2017, the Dallas Cowboys decided to sign CB Nolan Carroll to a 3-year, $10 million contract. That’s not exactly chump change considering he will make a little more than $3 million a season, but that is what middle-of-the-road starting CBs are going for on the open market.
With the departures of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys absolutely had to address the position and they did so in both free agency and the draft. Carroll was likely brought into ensure the cupboard wasn’t completely bare if Dallas failed to address the position with a starting caliber CB in the draft. But, we all know now that Dallas not only drafted one potential starting CB, but possibly three.
Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Marquez White all possess the traits you look for in starting CBs in the NFL. But, of the three, Awuzie and Lewis have the best chance to earn starting reps in 2017. At best, White earns one of the last remaining roster spots when the Cowboys get down to their 53-man roster, and at the worst he ends up on the practice squad.
Now, if you’re playing the numbers game like I am, then you’re trying to figure out how many CBs the Cowboys carry on the roster and who deserves to start? This is something I’ve put quite a bit of thought into, which is why I started wondering if Nolan Carroll is a starting CB or just an expensive backup?
This is how I see things right now. I have Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown as my surefire locks as the Cowboy starting cornerbacks when the season kicks off. Brown played spectacularly in 2016 as a rookie and deserves a chance to build upon his success as a starter. Scandrick is either going to be the starting slot CB or he could start on the outside instead.
If you’re counting, that essentially leaves only one starting CB spot up for grabs between Carroll, Awuzie, Lewis, or White. That is why this is shaping up to be one of the most watched position battles throughout training camp for Cowboys’ fans.
Nolan Carroll has been a serviceable CB so far in his NFL career, but he is still going to have to clearly outplay his competition if he wants to be a starter for the Cowboys. That might be easier said than done.
Chidobe Awuzie is a talented player with the versatility to play any position in the Cowboys’ secondary. The coaching staff already has him learning several different positions, outside CB be one of them. If he proves he is clearly better than Carroll, he is likely starting opposite Anthony Brown on the outside this season.
Of course, Awuzie’s versatility could also have him in play at safety. That would once again open things up for Carroll to become the starting outside CB, but remember what I said before, Orlando Scandrick is still in play there as well.
Jourdan Lewis could have a lot to say about where Scandrick plays a 2017. Lewis is expected to compete with #32 to become the top dog at the slot CB position, and if he wins out it could push Scandrick to the outside.
So, you can see the confusion about exactly where Nolan Carroll fits in and whether or not he will be a starter this season. But, it is a good problem to have considering the position is pretty much being overhauled.
The Dallas Cowboys can go a number of different directions when determining who the starting cornerbacks will be in 2017 because of all of the versatility they now have. But, we will just all have to wait and see how everything finally shakes out when training camp practices get underway.