FRISCO, Texas – You can make this case for Jerry Jones if you want to, but the Cowboys’ owner/general manager is already well-aware of the situation in front of him.
There might not be two more intriguing free agents on the Cowboys’ radar than Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, who are set to hit the open market later this week.
It’s fair to say neither player has lived up to the considerable hype placed on him in 2012. Carr signed a five-year contract worth $50 million that spring, and Claiborne was drafted No. 6 overall just a month later.
Despite their ups and downs, though, the two have been the Cowboys’ preferred starters at cornerback for much of the past five years. Their potential absence would leave the team with just two viable corners in Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown.
That leaves the Cowboys in a bit of a bind. It seems unlikely they can afford to retain both players, so what do they do? In Carr they have an ultra-reliable veteran, who has never missed a game in a nine-year career – but who will turn 31 in May.
In Claiborne they have a unique talent, who was skilled enough to be taken near the top of the NFL draft – but who has only played in 47 of 83 possible games because of various injuries.
“You have really gone to the essence of it,” Jones said at the NFL Combine. “You got one that is always available — ability and availability, which way to do you go? Is it cut and dried? No. So you try to come up with your ability to get one or the other, if it were either/or. That’s the call.”
Of course, the open market is going to determine a lot about what they can and can’t do. The Cowboys have cap room but not a lot of it, and other teams’ spending decisions are likely going to dictate a lot about their own.
Only time will tell, but there’s a case to be made that Carr’s consistent availability makes him a desirable veteran on the open market. That in turn prompts interesting questions about Claiborne – who showcased top-end talent in the first half of 2016, but once again failed to stay healthy.
“If you are reaching for availability, then you might want to come back around and take some risks and get ability,” Jones said.
It’s a hard situation to predict until the market has had a chance to take shape, but it’s one that Jones is keenly aware of. It’s also an important plot point that may shape the Cowboys’ draft strategy next month.
Fittingly, this year’s defensive backs went through their workouts at the NFL Combine on Monday morning, and it’s a safe bet the Cowboys were paying full attention.