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Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Cowboys' 1st-round pick? Answer is in Alabama

By Tim MacMahon

Jason Garrett’s planned pit stop in Tuscaloosa should be the first step in the Cowboys following the BAD-A plan in the first round of the draft.

That’s picking the Best Alabama Defender Available.

Mark Barron
Alabama safety Mark Barron could be a good fit for the Cowboys if they decide to trade down in the first round.
There are four potential first-rounders that played on the BCS champions’ dominant defense: cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, safety Mark Barron and inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Garrett’s presence at the Crimson Tide’s pro day -- the only one he plans to attend -- is a pretty good sign that one of those guys will hear his name called when the Cowboys go on the clock in the first round.

One scenario for the Cowboys is trading down in the first round and selecting Barron, a hard-hitting safety with some range and ball skills who was widely recognized as the vocal leader of that Bama defense. That would fill a hole that has existed since Darren Woodson’s retirement last decade.

The best-case scenario? The Cowboys stay put at No. 14 and take Kirkpatrick or Upshaw.

You can argue that those players don’t address immediate needs, but that’s the kind of short-sighted thinking that caused the Cowboys to pay Pro Bowl money this offseason to non-Pro Bowlers Brandon Carr and Anthony Spencer.
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Mike Jenkins, who is heading into the last season of his rookie deal, wants a new contract. You think agent Drew Rosenhaus and Jenkins plan to give the Cowboys a hometown discount? It’s much more likely that they’ll note that Jenkins, unlike Carr, has made a Pro Bowl and use Carr’s fresh five-year, $50.1 contract as the starting point for negotiations.

If the Cowboys give Jenkins that kind of money, they’ll end up with the most overpaid cornerback corps in NFL history. They’re already overpaying – Jerry Jones prefers the term “paying retail” – for Carr and nickel corner Orlando Scandrick (five years, $27 million).

Kirkpatrick would give the Cowboys a much-needed physical presence in the secondary at an affordable price. Get him and the Cowboys can afford to let Jenkins go after this season.

Or the Cowboys can pick Upshaw, putting themselves in a position where they don’t have to pay Anthony Spencer a franchise-tag rate to be slightly above average. With a salary of $8.8 million, Spencer is due to make about a million and a half bucks per sack.

Oh, and Spencer would love to negotiate a long-term deal. Why wouldn’t Spencer when he has all the leverage?

The reason Spencer has all the leverage against the Cowboys certainly isn’t his performance. It’s because the Cowboys, who have no faith in Victor Butler’s potential as a starter, have done such a poor job preparing to replace Spencer.

That all changes if the Cowboys select Upshaw, who could be described as Spencer with a serious mean streak.

That’s the kind of Bad A the Dallas defense desperately needs.