Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Carr

Dominik calls CB a 'hidden' Cowboys need

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
IRVING, Texas -- ESPN Insider Mark Dominik was the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009-13.

He spent 19 years with the Buccaneers and his time coincided with Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and assistant head coach/defense Monte Kiffin. He knows what they want in draft prospects, so it was interesting to note that Dominik has cornerback among the Cowboys’ hidden draft needs in this Insider piece. Insider

Here’s what he said:
Dallas Cowboys: Cornerback
The Cowboys have acquired three cornerbacks of note over the past two years in Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and B.W. Webb, so this might not look like a need area if you just skim through Dallas' depth chart (especially given their issues at other positions). But there is a real concern about the play of Claiborne, the No. 6 overall pick in 2012, and if they don't think they can get him straightened out, the Cowboys will need to add another corner in order to hold up in pass defense against their NFC East rivals.

He did not mention Orlando Scandrick, who was the Cowboys’ best cornerback in 2013. Earlier Tuesday, Calvin Watkins said the Cowboys need more from Carr, who received a five-year, $50 million deal from the club two years ago. Webb was mostly lost as a rookie and lost his job late in the season to Sterling Moore. Dominik correctly points out the thoughts on Claiborne, who is entering his biggest seasons.

But I wonder just how high the Cowboys would select a cornerback considering how much they have invested in Carr, Scandrick and Claiborne with picks and money. Would they go after the likes of Darqueze Dennard, Bradley Roby or Justin Gilbert?

TCU’s Jason Verrett is scheduled to visit with the team during the Dallas Day, but he is coming off shoulder surgery. Does he fit what Marinelli wants from corners?

The draft is not just about 2014. It is about the future as well. Scandrick’s re-worked deal late last season all but guarantees he will be around in 2015. The Cowboys have not restructured Carr’s contract, in part, because it would make it more possible to release him after this season if he does not find his 2012 form. Claiborne is signed through 2015 with a team option for 2016, but if he does not improve significantly this season then it would seem unlikely the Cowboys would exercise it.

So maybe drafting a cornerback, even early, makes sense after all.

Cowboys need more from Brandon Carr

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
The 2014 season has to be better for Brandon Carr.

It almost demands it.

Last season, Carr finished with three interceptions and seven pass breakups. He was beaten up in Detroit by Calvin Johnson where he allowed 10 passes for 204 yards and a stiff arm to the chest.

Later in the season, Orlando Scandrick took on the task of covering Pierre Garcon after Carr struggled to contain him.

Carr did have his moments, but they were early in the season and it appeared he played with less confidence as the season progressed.

That can’t happen again in 2014 for a number of reasons.

For one thing, Carr is paid like a man expected to shut receivers down. It’s an impossible task because offenses have the advantages over defenses and an inconsistent pass rush placed too much pressure on men like Carr to hold receivers.

However, the money he makes in comparison to his peers has the Cowboys looking for more out of him.

Carr’s has the second-highest average salary at his position at $10.02 million, behind only Darrelle Revis’ $16 million.

Carr’s cap value of $12.2 million is the highest in the NFL at his position. His cap value is higher than Jonathan Joseph ($11.2 million), Brandon Flowers ($10.5 million) and Lardarius Webb ($10.5 million).

Is Carr better than them?

Some days he is, but with coach Jason Garrett entering a make-or-break season, he needs veteran players to produce more than ever.

“We have a lot of confidence in him. He plays very well,” Garrett said. “He’s had a couple of games he certainly would have liked to have played better in, but again, we evaluate what we did as a defensive staff in some of those games and how we could have put him in a better situation. He’ll learn and grow from all of those experiences. He’s the right kind of guy. He cares a great deal about getting better.”

Carr is a man corner that’s been asked to play zone coverage at times. That’s not his game and if the Cowboys can put him in favorable positions, meaning more man coverage, making plays will occur.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

April, 5, 2014
Apr 5
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready. We touch on a number of subjects ranging from: Chris Johnson, Miles Austin, Tony Romo's successor and cap hell.

If you want to see Part 1, click here.

Away we go:

IRVING, Texas – For a variety of reasons the Dallas Cowboys need their cornerback trio of Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne to play better in 2014.

One reason is the addition of DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins.

We documented Jackson’s efforts against the Cowboys while with the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s scored just one touchdown against the Cowboys and averaged 3.5 catches a game in the regular season.

Maybe things become a little different now that he is with the Redskins. He will have a first-time head coach in Jay Gruden, who loved to throw it when he was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. He has Robert Griffin III trying to recapture the magic of his rookie season. He has Pierre Garcon, who lit up the Cowboys, and free-agent pickup Andre Roberts.

Carr struggled badly with Garcon (11 catches, 144 yards) in the second meeting of the season last year at FedEx Field so much that Scandrick moved in late in the game when the defense made a stop. Roberts has played twice against the Cowboys with the Arizona Cardinals and has two 100-yard games.

He caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals’ 27-26 win in 2010 and six passes for 111 yards in the Cardinals’ 19-13 overtime win.

New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have to blend what Carr, Scandrick and Claiborne do well into the scheme better than last year’s coordinator, Monte Kiffin. Carr and Claiborne have to play better to give Marinelli options.

Cowboys salary-cap update

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
IRVING, Texas -- According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Dallas Cowboys have $5,754,917 in salary-cap space. No, this is not an April Fools’ joke.

That ranks third in the NFC East. The New York Giants check in at $4,438,375. The Philadelphia Eagles have $20,503,670 in room. The Washington Redskins have $6,522,386 in room, but that would shrink if/when wide receiver DeSean Jackson signs.

The Cowboys’ space does not include the $5.5 million that will be gained when Miles Austin's contract comes off the books.

If the Cowboys wanted, they could sign anybody available in free agency. When Brandon Carr signed his five-year, $50 million deal in 2012, his first-year cap number was $3.2 million. If the Cowboys haven’t signed anybody to a large deal by now -- Henry Melton's deal is essentially a one-year, $3.5 million deal now -- they won’t sign anybody to a large deal.

So what will they do with the money?

They would like to keep as much space as possible for their own players, like Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray. But they don’t need to rush any deals, either.

The Cowboys will use the fifth-year option on Smith by May 2 if needed to secure their left tackle through 2015. They could use the franchise tag on Dez Bryant after the 2014 season. There is no rush to do a deal with Murray, though as I hinted last week they could get a team-friendly deal done considering how the running back market has worked out.

Chat recap: Cowboys can't bank on health

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
IRVING, Texas -- We had a nice spirited chat for about an hour on Wednesday in which we touched on many subjects.

Click here to go through all of the questions, but the highlights are:
But there was one subject I wanted to touch on a little more.

Rico (Jersey): Yo Todd, what can the 'Boys do to help with the amount of injured players they seem to have every year?

Todd Archer: Well, hope to have better luck would be one way. To me it was a little disconcerting to hear Stephen Jones say the Cowboys will be better on defense in 2014 than 2013 because they will be healthier. Will they? I thought injuries were the reason they were bad in 2013 and they would be better in 2013 because of it? You can't bank on health. The Cowboys will have 8-10 players hurt this year again and will have to deal with it by getting more players.

Now if I can go a little deeper here. Few things infuriated fans more last year than the high number of injuries. Or the supposed high number of injuries. The Cowboys had 12 players suffer a hamstring strain during last season, which was near the top of the league.

I get asked what the Cowboys can do to prevent injuries, and I just don't think there is an answer. They have a nutritionist that works on their diets. They go through all of the proper protocols in their strength and conditioning program. Their athletic trainers are considered among the best in the NFL. Could things be tweaked or changed some? Sure. But I don't know that there is some sort of revolutionary training technique the Cowboys can use to assure themselves that injuries will not happen.

When Bill Parcells coached, injuries were down, in part I believe, because players feared being hurt under Parcells. They might have had an ache or a pain, but they wouldn't let that stop them from getting on the field. Sometimes that can be a detriment, of course, but it builds a toughness to a team.

As I said in my answer it is disconcerting to hear Stephen Jones say the Cowboys will be better on defense in 2014 because they will be healthier. Injuries cost Rob Ryan his job after the 2012 season. Injuries earned Monte Kiffin a promotion (wink, wink) in 2014.

Hoping players will be healthy is not the smartest way to go about building a roster. Will the Cowboys lose so many defensive linemen in 2013? Probably not, but what if that injury bug hits the offensive line? They lost linebackers Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Ernie Sims and DeVonte Holloman at different points last season. What if they lose Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church this season?

Every time the Cowboys have talked about injuries since the season ended, they prefaced their comments with, "It's not an excuse, but …" And it's not an excuse, but every team has injuries. The good teams persevere and move on. The good teams' next-man-up philosophy works because they have quality depth.

Quality depth is brought about with solid drafting and good free agency work in an offseason over the course of time.

It just seems like the Cowboys approach to injuries is always a glass half-full when it should be a glass half-empty so they are prepared for the inevitable rash of injuries that can make or break a season.

Cowboys holding their line in free agency

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
IRVING, Texas -- Last week, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was praised for making the difficult decision to release DeMarcus Ware.

For all that Ware accomplished (team's all-time sack leader) and for all that he meant to Jones, the owner stuck to the disciplined outline the Cowboys are operating under in 2014.

So now that Henry Melton and Jared Allen have come and gone from Valley Ranch, you can't blame Jones for not being willing to spend big bucks on somebody he just met.

If he was "right" in deciding to part ways with Ware -- for the record, I think it was the wrong move and would have signed him to a re-worked deal although not at the level the Denver Broncos paid Ware -- then at least he is being consistent by not giving into the contractual demands of Melton and Allen.

At least for now.

We'll find out this season if Jones was "right" in holding strong if they don't end up joining the Cowboys and go to another team and either play well or they don't play well.

Melton is off to his fourth team on his free-agency tour with the St. Louis Rams. He also met with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. Allen has also met with the Seahawks.

Generally speaking, the more visits a player makes the more it means he is not getting the deal he wants. It is well within the player's rights to shop for the best deal on the open market. Jason Hatcher met with the Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans. The one team he didn't meet with face to face, the Washington Redskins, made the best offer that even Hatcher said blew the other offers out of the water.

At the NFL scouting combine, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would be efficient spenders in free agency. Giving Melton, who is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the moon, and Allen, who turns 32 next month, the stars would not be efficient spending.

When a team acts desperately in free agency, they tend to make a mistake. One of the best free-agent signings the Cowboys made was inking La'Roi Glover in 2002. One of the least productive was signing Marcellus Wiley to a four-year, $16 million deal in 2004. He produced three sacks, but the Cowboys had to have him.

In 2012, the Cowboys recruited Brandon Carr, Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Dan Connor and Kyle Orton in free agency. They were closers. They used the digital board to show the team's history and most of the players' highlights to help close the deal. They also paid an awful lot of money for them.

The Cowboys weren't able to close the deals for Melton and Allen on their visits, but that doesn't mean they won't sign them eventually.

And if they do, then it likely won't be for the stars or the moon.

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

March, 15, 2014
Mar 15
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss the move of Brandon Carr from safety to corner, how much of a factor Lance Dunbar can be in the offense and why the Cowboys didn't try to trade DeMarcus Ware.

For Part 1 of the mailbag, click here.

Away we go:


Cowboys have to spend, choose wisely

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
IRVING, Texas -- The free-agent shopping starts today at 3 p.m. CT.

If the Dallas Cowboys have learned anything, it’s that they should use coupons.

From 2006-11, the Cowboys signed 12 players in unrestricted free agency. Only two players who signed multi-year deals reached the end of their contracts: Kyle Kosier signed a five-year, $15 million deal with the Cowboys in 2006 and was with the team through 2011. Keith Brooking signed a three-year, $6 million deal in 2009 and was a contributor through 2011.

Igor Olshansky (2009), Leonard Davis (2007) and Akin Ayodele (2006) are the only other players who made it more than one season on their original deals, and Olshansky and Ayodele made it only two seasons.

The Cowboys signed seven unrestricted free agents in 2012 and three lasted one season (Dan Connor, Nate Livings and Lawrence Vickers) on multi-year deals. Brodney Pool signed a one-year deal and barely made it to training camp.

Three members of the 2012 free-agent class remain: Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million), Mackenzy Bernadeau (four years, $11.5 million) and Kyle Orton (three years, $10.5 million). Carr is coming off a disappointing 2013 season, Bernadeau took a pay cut last week and Orton is not sure he wants to play.

Spending money in free agency is hardly ever the answer. The Cowboys will not have a ton of money available to them when the market opens until the DeMarcus Ware situation is resolved, and even then they will have to be wise with how they spend it and who they spend it on.

The needs are obvious: defense, defense and more defense. That’s what happens when a unit finishes last in the NFL in 2013. But the Cowboys could use a veteran presence at wide receiver (Robert Meachem, Jason Avant) and a backup quarterback if Orton walks away (Shaun Hill).

Finding defensive line help is a must, but the Cowboys will have to be budget conscious. They have had on and off talks with Jordan Woy, who represents free agents Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, for most of the offseason. Both players could find better financial opportunities elsewhere.

Hatcher turns 32 in July and is coming off a career-high 11 sacks. He was added to the Pro Bowl. Spencer played in only one game in 2013 because of a knee injury that will not be healed enough for him to be 100 percent ready for training camp.

How much of a commitment can the Cowboys make and feel like they will get their money’s worth?

Ties to new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could help in the pursuit of Henry Melton, but he is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Value is often the most overlooked part of free agency. The big-money signings lead to the biggest headlines, but do not correspond enough to wins and losses.

The Cowboys found value in Kosier, Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh and Bernadeau but did not or have not received enough bang for the buck in Carr ($26.5 million guarantee) and Davis ($18.75 million guaranteed).

As the Cowboys look to clear this 8-8 bump that has turned into Mt. Everest, they need to spend wisely, but more importantly they need to choose wisely.

Sources: Ware decision could come quickly

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
IRVING, Texas -- The working relationship between the Dallas Cowboys and DeMarcus Ware could be decided by the time free agency begins Tuesday, according to sources.


If the Cowboys can only keep one, whom should it be?


Discuss (Total votes: 18,683)

According to a source, the Cowboys have been negotiating with Ware on a reworked contract after the team let the seven-time Pro Bowler know last week they want him back in 2014, but not at the $12.25 million base salary.

The free-agent market opens at 3 p.m. CT Tuesday. Teams and agents have been able to talk about interest and parameters since Saturday, but players have not been able to talk directly to clubs or set up visits.

Whether the Cowboys release Ware or reach an agreement on a new contract, they will gain salary-cap space. By cutting Ware, the Cowboys would gain $7.4 million in cap space.

But the Cowboys do not need to cut Ware to get under the cap. After restructuring three deals (Tony Romo, Sean Lee, Orlando Scandrick), reducing one (Mackenzy Bernadeau) and releasing Phil Costa last week, the Cowboys are roughly $2 million under the cap.

While that is enough to sign a player to a reasonable deal, it is not enough to help fill multiple holes on a defense that finished last in the NFL in 2013. It would not be enough to keep last year's sack leader, Jason Hatcher, who is expected to receive heavy interest from teams in free agency.

Ware's camp would like a quick decision so that if he is cut, he would be able to hit the open market when teams have the most money to spend.

Ware's 117 career sacks are the most in franchise history, and he earned Pro Bowl honors from 2006 to 2012, but posted a career-low six sacks in 2013. Ware, who turns 32 in July, missed three games with a quadriceps strain and was bothered by a nerve issue in his elbow that required surgery after the season.

At the NFL scouting combine, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would be efficient spenders in free agency. In the past, they have set the markets on players -- like cornerback Brandon Carr, who received a five-year, $50 million deal in 2012 -- only to not get enough payoff on the deals.

With Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith nearing the end of their contracts, the Cowboys want to have enough cap room to keep their two young Pro Bowl performers.

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

March, 8, 2014
Mar 8
IRVING, Texas – Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss whether Tony Romo should take a pay cut, the futures of DeMarcus Ware and Brandon Carr and their cap implications as well as whether the Cowboys should look at a running back.

If you want to see Part 1, click here.

Away we go:


Free-agency primer: Cowboys

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Brian Waters, Danny McCray, Ernie Sims, Jarius Wynn

Where they stand: After finishing with the worst-ranked defense in the NFL in 2013, the Cowboys need help everywhere, but mostly on the defensive line. The need could be even greater if the Cowboys are unable to come up with a new deal for DeMarcus Ware, who is set to make $12.25 million in 2014 and count $16.003 million against the cap. Coming off an 11-sack season, Hatcher is likely to command more money from another team that will make it unlikely for the Cowboys to match, but they will not close the door on keeping him. Spencer is rehabbing from knee surgery and could be had on a short-term deal that will not involve a lot of money. The rest of their free agents are more fill-in types who will be allowed to test the market if not allowed to leave altogether.

What to expect: Not much. Last year the Cowboys added safety Will Allen and linebacker Justin Durant in free agency on short-term, low-money deals. The approach will be more that way than setting the market on a player as they did in 2012 for cornerback Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million). Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys can be "efficient" spenders in free agency. The Cowboys will have to create space under the cap to sign players to modest deals. The best bet is for them to look for low-cost help on players on the line looking to rebound from down years or injuries. They also could look at safety, though Jerry Jones said at the NFL scouting combine that they liked their young safeties such as J.J. Wilcox. Whatever money the Cowboys do have is more likely to be set aside for Tyron Smith and/or Dez Bryant.
IRVING, Texas -- Bill Polian was a successful personnel man with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts. He is now an ESPN Insider and has offered up a dos and don'ts list Insider when it comes to free agency.

Basically, Polian, who is among Jerry Jones' circle of trust outside Valley Ranch, subscribes to the theory that a free agent can be a useful tool if you spend wisely, but the economic risk almost always outweighs the on-field production.

Let's highlight a couple of Polian's positions from the Insider story.
2. Don't sign a player and change his techniques.
It is hard enough for players to adapt to a new team. For example, don't take a Tampa 2, 3-technique and expect him to become a Parcells/Belichick 3-4 DE. Those are totally different techniques, and players who have to make that type of adjustment don't make the transition well. Adapting and then trying to learn a new role on top of that adds complications that can ruin your investment. You could have a relatively brief window of return, so retraining shouldn't be a big part of it.
Cowboys' take: Dallas invested heavily in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency and the draft in 2012 and moved away from their supposed strengths -- man coverage -- to play mostly zone when they switched to Monte Kiffin's 4-3 scheme. The Cowboys need to find a way to blend their coverages more to play to the strengths of Carr and Claiborne.
7. Don't pay a player above his grade.
Don't give A-money (or years) to a B-player, and so on down the line. As discussed at the start of this article, the free-agent market as a whole is almost always a losing investment. Just because another team is willing to give a player a certain contract doesn't mean he's worth that price to your team. There is no universal price for a player because every player has a different value to each team. You need to trust your internal valuations and proceed off those figures, not the market.
Cowboys' take: Let's stick with Carr again. The Cowboys overpaid for him (five years, $50 million) but that was the market for free-agent corners. The St. Louis Rams paid Cortland Finnegan the same amount and will cut him once the league year starts. At the time of the signing, the Cowboys were not criticized for signing Carr, who has not missed a game in his career and was young. But they have yet to see the on-field production for their off-field pay out.
11. Do beware of players whose production dramatically increases in their contract year.
If a player is lousy for three years and then spikes in Year 4 and becomes a world-beater, be careful. You're more likely to get the production from those first three seasons, but you'll be paying for the results of the fourth. It's not a knock on the effort of the first three years, it's a trust in the bigger sample size.
Cowboys' take: It's not that Jason Hatcher was lousy, but he never produced more than 4.5 sacks in a season before 2013. Polian also has a 'don't pay age' axiom, which could affect Hatcher, who turns 32 in July, but could teams be worried about his 11-sack spike in a contract year?
Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr finished the 2013 season with three interceptions and 13 pass breakups.

Numbers aside, Carr's season could be viewed as a disappointment.

In an interview with Michigan Live, Carr called his 2013 season a learning process.

"Individually, this season was a learning process for me," Carr said last week after visiting his high school, Carman-Ainsworth, in Flint, Mich. "I came to Dallas with high expectations, with a chip on my shoulder and a lot of things that I wanted to accomplish as well. ... I'm still in the process of doing that but being assigned each team's No. 1 option each and every week with little to no help."

The Cowboys expect more from Carr after signing him to a five-year, $50.1 million contract two seasons ago. In two seasons Carr has 24 pass breakups, but in the previous two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Carr had 40 pass breakups and appeared to be more of a playmaker.

"It's fine, because that's the type of games that you want when you grow up," Carr said. "But it was good because I learned a lot about myself."

Carr expressed surprise at the amount of media attention devoted to the Cowboys in the interview with Michigan Live.

"There's always a rhyme and reason to all the chaotic things that go on inside Valley Ranch," Carr said. "The atmosphere and stadium that we play in is crazy. That stadium is Jerry Jones' baby."

Sorting through Cowboys' draft needs

March, 4, 2014
Mar 4
IRVING, Texas -- As Jerry Jones spoke on his bus from the NFL scouting combine recently, you could hear the Dallas Cowboys' owner and general manager go through a checklist when talking about draft needs.

He said drafting a corner “could be stacking it up,” too much with Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne. He said tight end would not be a position of need with Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar. He said “not necessarily” wide receiver, either. The Cowboys like DeMarco Murray a lot, but “that doesn’t mean we won’t bring in another potentially very competitive running back in at all.” He said a strongside linebacker would not be much of a need because of its lack of importance in the 4-3. He mentioned liking what they have at safety but would not rule out a draft pick.

What does it all mean in early March? Not much.

The question was about drafting solely defensive players considering how much help the Cowboys need on that side of the ball.

“We’ve got to be careful foregoing a really top offensive lineman,” Jones said. “I’d head scratch about that, all things equal, same quality.”

The follow-up question was specifically about defensive line help.

“It’s certainly where we were almost bankrupt last year in terms of what we had personnel wise,” Jones said. “As you’ve noted and I’ve mentioned, I thought that was our strength going into the season. And by the way, I was up here talking to Monte Kiffin earlier and Monte was talking about how [Anthony] Spencer, how we were doing with [Jay] Ratliff not out there, but how well we were playing at Oxnard in that defensive front. That was without Tyrone Crawford, who got hurt the first day. Still we were creating some havoc out there and we, of course, really lost that. But that is certainly an area of need. I’m not being evasive, but don’t discount a good offensive lineman that is high on your board.”

That was twice Jones mentioned an offensive lineman. The Cowboys have hit on their past two first-round picks on the offensive line in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick after not previously drafting one in the first round in the Jones era.

Just something to note.