With Brandon Carr's departure in free agency, Orlando Scandrick is now the elder statesman in the Cowboys secondary. Even though this offseason came with a little rift between Scandrick and the Cowboys front office, he is still going to be relied upon as a starter and leader in 2017.
Scandrick is all that remains from the Cowboys cornerback core for the last several seasons. Carr and Morris Claiborne are both gone; in their place are veteran free agent Nolan Carroll, second-year stud Anthony Brown, and rookies Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis.
Between the drafting of Awuzie in the second round and Lewis in the third, rumors started flying that Orlando Scandrick was on the trade block. The rumor started with Ian Rapaport, giving it some added weight, as did the fact that Awuzie scouted as a very similar player to Scandrick.
When Dallas took another cornerback with their next pick, that made the notion of unloading Orlando even more believable. The rumor picked up steam so quickly that, the next day, Jerry Jones had to step in and make it clear that the Cowboys had no intention of trading Scandrick.
Still, it didn't stop there. Just a couple of days after Jerry's response, Orlando tweeted the following from his personal account:
Who this message was directed at is hard to say. Was it a shot at Rapaport and other media who started the fire, or was it at Jerry for the denial?
This wouldn't be the first time that a Cowboys cornerback had some worries following the draft. In 2012, Mike Jenkins asked for a trade after Dallas signed Brandon Carr in free agency and then spent a first-round pick on Morris Claiborne. His request was not granted; Jenkins played out the year as the fourth corner behind those two and Orlando Scandrick.
Did observing that situation give Orlando a little concern after this year's draft? We'll probably never know for certain. Thankfully, so far there's been no sign of lingering turmoil. Last month, after spending the summer working as a starting corner on defense, Scandrick sounded fully on board with the Cowboys and the 2017 campaign.
“My time is now, and I ain't looking over my shoulder, wondering what's going to happen.”
The Cowboys certainly don't want Orlando looking behind him. They not only need him to be focused on his major role in this year's defense, but also on leading their very young defensive backfield. If Anthony Brown starts as most expect, Dallas' next-oldest starter in the secondary will be Jeff Heath. He is a veteran at 26, but still would be in his first year with the first-team defense.
Scandrick's veteran presence will be even more critical early this season. Nolan Carroll will likely be facing a two-game suspension for his DWI incident a few months ago. The most likely scenario during his absence is that Chidobe Awuzie will be used in the slot, the role that Scandrick has occupied for many seasons. Orlando will be a vital asset in helping the rookie prepare for significant playing time.
With the 2017 Cowboys looking to push through to a championship, they need all hands on deck. This will especially critical in Week One with Carroll, David Irving, Damien Wilson, and potentially other defenders missing while the New York Giants come to town. Scandrick not only has to lead in the secondary but, along with guys like Sean Lee and Tyrone Crawford, be the veteran stabilizers for the entire defense.
Hopefully Orlando's health and his mental outlook will both work in the Cowboys favor. Despite whatever rumors may have suggested a few months ago, Scandrick is very much needed in 2017.