It’s a good thing this year’s draft is deep at cornerback, because the Cowboys just lost two of their starters in free agency.
On Thursday, Brandon Carr signed a four-year contract with the Ravens while ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Morris Claiborne is expected to land with the Jets. Earlier this offseason, the Cowboys also watched two of their safeties in Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox depart in free agency, though they did add Nolan Carroll, a cornerback, to the roster.
That means the Cowboys officially need help in the secondary.
According to Pro Football Focus, Carr led the Cowboys’ defense in snaps with 1,103. Claiborne was on the field for only 406 snaps, but that was due to the fact that he missed more than half the season with injuries.
As for Carr’s actual level of play when he was on the field, well, let’s just say that the Cowboys really aren’t losing too much. He might’ve been durable, but he also allowed a 101.0 passer rating in coverage last year, per PFF. He was targeted 99 times and allowed 60 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns. He snagged just one interception.
Meanwhile, Claiborne actually performed well, despite his lengthy absence from the field. According to PFF, he was targeted 54 times in coverage, allowing 28 receptions for 250 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, which comes out to a 63.0 passer rating for opposing quarterbacks. But the former first-round pick simply can’t stay on the field. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini pointed out, he missed 33 games in five seasons.
So, even before losing Carr and Claiborne, the Cowboys needed to upgrade their secondary. Their defense, not their offense, is what could hold them back as they arguably enter the 2017 season as the favorite in the NFC.
Last year, the Cowboys’ defense ranked 17th in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders.