Time for Mike Jenkins to return

May, 10, 2012
5/10/12
8:51
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Mike Jenkins has done nothing wrong this offseason.

It is well within his right to do his rehab work from major shoulder surgery mostly in Florida. The Cowboys’ offseason conditioning program is voluntary even if there is a wink-wink involved.

But it doesn’t mean Jenkins is in the right either.

Is Jenkins, who was the Cowboys’ best cornerback last season -- and that is not meant as faint praise -- upset that he does not have a new contract? Is he upset the team signed Brandon Carr to a $50 million deal and Orlando Scandrick to a $27 million deal before he could cash in? Is he upset the Cowboys traded up to get Morris Claiborne in the first round in the draft?

Maybe it’s yes to all three, but staying home is not the right answer.

Let’s offer up Ken Hamlin and Marion Barber as lessons why.

In 2008, Hamlin did not take part in the offseason program, organized team activities and mini-camp after the team put the franchise tag on him. That same offseason the Cowboys tended Barber as a restricted free agent with the highest compensation possible -- a first and third rounder -- and he missed about two months of the offseason program.

Eventually Hamlin and Barber got paid. The Cowboys signed Hamlin to a six-year, $39 million deal in July 2008. Barber signed a seven-year, $45 million deal in May.

But neither guy was the same player.

Hamlin was cut after the 2009 season. Barber lost the tread on his tire and was cut after the 2010 season. He retired this offseason after one year in Chicago.

Maybe this is just anecdotal evidence about the importance of the offseason program, but you’re hearing a lot of guys talk now about how much better this spring has been than last spring when there was a lockout in effect.

If it’s all about money, then, hey, those guys got their money. Is it a coincidence that Barber’s agent then is Jenkins’ agent now, Drew Rosenhaus?

Trading Jenkins is/was not easy. Why would a team trade for a guy who is coming off major shoulder surgery? Why would a team trade for a guy with one year left on his deal? Why would the Cowboys want to give up on a young cornerback even if they have stockpiled the spot this offseason?

On Wednesday owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he has visions of a long-term plan for Jenkins. Maybe he does or maybe he’s just saying he does. The Cowboys will have significant money tied up in Carr, Scandrick and Claiborne. Can they really afford a fourth cornerback?

Yes, if he plays as well as Jenkins played last year and in 2009.

Jenkins' best attribute as a corner is his willingness to compete at the line of scrimmage and for the ball in the air. Yes, I know people now are talking about two failed tackles he had as a rookie and 2010, but if he didn’t answer any toughness questions for you last year by playing with that shoulder injury then shame on you.

Jenkins can show the Cowboys they have to keep him. He can show other teams he’s healthy and worth the money in 2013.

He can’t show them that from Florida.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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