One thing has been clear after two games, though. Morris Claiborne is the best cornerback on the team.
Finally healthy and able to play to his potential, Claiborne is on track to maximize his "prove it" opportunity this season. An unrestricted free agent in 2017, Claiborne may wind up being one of the better options on the market.
Naturally, the Cowboys must be wondering if they want to compete with other clubs or go ahead and lock up Claiborne now. Here are the major pros and cons.
PRO: Keep the Price Down
Claiborne's 2016 deal starts at just $2.7 million with roughly another million in incentives. His rookie salary in 2012 was almost $3 million. It's little more than half of what he made last year.
Claiborne has never had a "payday" by NFL cornerback standards. Despite his struggles since entering the league, this is still a guy who once went sixth in his draft class. Claiborne no doubt envisioned having a $10-$15 million per-year contract one day.
Last Spring, 28-year-old Josh Norman got five-year, $75 million deal from Washington. Janoris Jenkins, 27-years-old, got $62.5 million over five years from the Giants. Even at 29-year-old, Shaun Smith got a four year, $40 million contract from Oakland.
Claiborne will have just turned 27 when free agency opens next year. He will be a former sixth-overall pick who may have just had a breakout season. Claiborne will want to get paid, and he probably won't have to look hard for a willing employer.
Dallas should be able to get a discount if they can re-sign Claiborne sooner rather than later. Not only do they keep him from improving his resume, but the Cowboys also can use Claiborne's own health history to their advantage.
After so many physical issues, Claiborne must be worried that any single play could wreck his comeback year. Betting on himself is a huge gamble. Claiborne may be willing to jump at a modest long-term deal rather than roll the dice on making through the season.
CON: Current Health Could be Fool's Gold
Claiborne's history with injuries is a double-edged sword. While it's something Dallas might be able to use as leverage, it could also come back to bite them if he winds up hobbled or unavailable for the next few seasons.
Reclamation projects happen often in the NFL, but often when a new team tries to give a failed early-round pick a second chance. Dallas did this with offensive tackle Marc Colombo back in 2005. He wound up being a fixture at right tackle for the next five seasons.
Dallas went into an internal reclamation project by re-signing Claiborne. So far he's looking like another success, but there's still a lot of football to be played.
PRO: Stability at Transitioning CB Position
Brandon Carr is likely playing his final year as a Cowboy. Orlando Scandrick turns 30 next year and is having some worrisome health problems this season.
Keeping Morris Claiborne around may be necessary just to help stabilize the cornerback position while dealing with these other players. You need at least three quality corners in the modern NFL.
Even if Anthony Brown develops into a quality player, counting on him too much in 2017 seems foolhardy. Dallas will need to add talent to replace Carr and, at the most, see Brown as the insurance against further decline from Scandrick.
If they don't retain Claiborne, the Cowboys could have two big holes at cornerback to solve in one offseason. That would be a major hindrance to their leverage and limit available resources for other needs.
CON: Inflated Value from Cowboys Weak CB History
Saying Morris Claiborne is the best cornerback in Dallas is great, but may be dangerous reasoning. It's like determining the most talented Kardashian or the best thing Stephen A. Smith ever said. You're working from a low bar.
I've always felt that Orlando Scandrick's value has been exaggerated for this same reason. Yes, he's a quality player and very good out of the slot. But even most of us in Cowboys Nation know he's not one of the the top corners in football. Still, he gets held on a bit of pedestal in internal discussions.
Claiborne's value could be similarly inflated. We haven't seen great cornerback play around here since the best days of Terence Newman.
Ironically, Newman went underrated as a Cowboy. I think this was due to the lingering shadow of Deion Sanders. Some especially bad years at the position in 2010-2011 caused us to finally lower the bar.
Now, we can easily mistake competence for brilliance. Claiborne can have a great year from our perspective but perhaps not one that should earn him a big payday by the league's standard.
~ ~ ~
It's hard to have a firm opinion on this as it involves information we don't know. How confident is the Cowboys medical staff in Morris Claiborne's long-term health? How is he grading out on the plays not captured by the TV camera?
How important is money to Claiborne over remaining a Dallas Cowboy?
The factors all make Morris Claiborne one of the most interesting figures of the 2016 season. Dallas has moved money around one some other veteran deals to create cap space. Working out a long-term deal with Claiborne may have been one of the moves they were anticipating.
Then again, maybe both parties want to wait the full season to see where they stand. Claiborne could easily want to have his free agency experience and get the kind of money he, his family, and his agent all imagined he would one day make.
For now, I'm glad we're at least able to have the discussion.
Dallas Cowboys Sign LB Joe Thomas to 2 Year Deal
At long last, the Dallas Cowboys have their first free agent addition of this offseason. Having lost starters Jonathan Cooper and Anthony Hitchens at left guard and linebacker respectively, the team has added depth at LB with Joe Thomas signing a two-year deal.
The 2018 season will actually mark Joe Thomas' second stint with the Dallas Cowboys, as he was signed to their practice squad in 2015. The team that signed Thomas out of South Carolina State following the 2014 draft, the Green Bay Packers, added Thomas back to their active roster for the 2015 season.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016.
Thomas has spent the last three seasons starting eight games for the Packers, recording 70 tackles and an interception in 2016.
A contingency plan of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith carrying the Cowboys for 16 games at LB requires adequate depth, which is exactly what the Cowboys are typically in the market for come free agency. Waiting longer than usual to make their first splash, the Cowboys absolutely need an addition like Thomas to perform better than last year's FA class.
Used in sub packages by the Packers while also playing special teams - where the Cowboys have lost core players in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber - Thomas will have a great chance to impress two new Dallas coaches in Ben Bloom and Keith O'Quinn.
Cowboys Trade for FB Jamize Olawale from Raiders
Less than a week after the Cowboys lost fullback Keith Smith to the Raiders in free agency, the two teams have worked out a trade to send FB Jamize Olawale from Oakland to Dallas.
Fullback trade! The #Raiders are sending FB Jamize Olawale to the #Cowboys, sources say. Dallas has its fullback, one who was with Oakland since 2012.
To facilitate the trade, the Cowboys will send their fifth-round pick (173rd overall) to the Raiders for their sixth-round pick (192nd), moving back just 19 spots.
In return, Dallas not only brings in a veteran replacement at FB but a player they already know.
Jamize Olawale was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Cowboys in 2012. Despite a strong showing in that preseason, Dallas did not have room for him on the roster. He was on the team's practice squad until December, when Oakland poached him.
Since then, Olawale has been a regular roleplayer in the Raiders' offense. He's missed just six games since 2013.
Jamize brings more offensive firepower to the FB position than Keith Smith had. He's scored at least one touchdown in each of the last three seasons. He can be effective both running and receiving.
Through the trade, Dallas picks up the final year of Olawale's current contract. It calls for a $1.5 million base salary in 2018.
Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018
Continuity is the key to good special teams play in the NFL. Already losing long-time Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia to the Raiders - who promptly snatched ST aces Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber in free agency - the Dallas Cowboys have announced their intentions to re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for the 2018 season.
Returning on a one-year deal, the fan favorite Ladouceur will be back to do what he does best in cleanly executing almost every special teams snap for Chris Jones or Dan Bailey to handle.
Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will re-sign with the Cowboys on Monday, according to sources, on a one-year deal. He will be in his 14th season with the franchise. Only Jason Witten, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei will have more years of... https://t.co/yTQbMYyrIv
While Jones has improved as the Cowboys' punter with each passing season, Kicker Dan Bailey actually enters 2018 as another question mark on this unit. With the general belief around the team being that Bailey will be just fine moving forward, the Cowboys will no longer have to worry about who handles long snaps next year either.
L.P. Ladouceur is back in the silver and blue, and in this moment, everything can be alright with the world.
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