Dallas Cowboys: Will Dallas’ sneaky strategy at cornerback work?

Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys either found the ultimate cheat code or they took an idiotic gamble in the name of profit. Over the past two years the Dallas front office has been following a plan – a plan to hack the system and cost-effectively handle one of the least cost effective positions on the team – cornerback.

The last decade the passing game has ruled the NFL. No element impacts winning or losing more than a team’s passing offense. As such, the ability to stop the passing offense has proportionality grown alongside it. Finding an elite outside cornerback is hard. And re-signing one is even harder. Perhaps that’s why the Dallas Cowboys have avoided the issue altogether.

Will the Dallas Cowboys enormous gamble at the cornerback position pay off or sink their ship?

Instead of pursuing a proven veteran outside CB in free agency, or re-signing their own in Byron Jones, the Dallas Cowboys have opted for the road less travelled. They signed proven nickel cornerbacks with position flex.

Exploiting what appears to be a hole in the marketplace, Dallas has decided signing slot CBs is a better investment than high-priced boundary cornerbacks.

slot cornerbacks provide nearly the same amount of “WAR” than boundary cornerbacks – at a fraction of the price.

Something we discussed earlier in the offseason was Anthony Treash’s findings over at PFF. When perusing through positional WAR (wins above replacement) Treash discovered slot CBs provide nearly the same amount of WAR than boundary CBs – at a fraction of the price.

For teams interested in maximizing value, we concluded this spring, signing veteran inside CBs is a great use of funds. While we didn’t endorse going cheap at outside CB, we did point out the logic behind cycling through pedigreed boundary players on rookie deals as a way of saving money and maximizing returns in coverage.

Keep in mind, offensive players in the slot account for 34% of all touchdowns, 32% of all targets, and 32% of all yardage. Stopping them is just as important as stopping outside receivers so why not invest in inside cornerbacks, right?

That’s seemingly what’s driving the Dallas Cowboys. Over the past two seasons they’ve re-signed Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis (two players who are primarily inside CBs). Brown has shown the ability to admirably fill in on the outside when needed and may find himself in that role here in 2021 if things don’t go well for the rookie Kelvin Joseph.

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Even if Brown is a subpar boundary CB, Dallas would have found value in signing a veteran slot CB to play the more expensive boundary CB role. And if everything works out aces with the rookies outside, then Brown and/or Lewis can play the role they were technically re-signed to play – inside. Again, the value is there since the WAR is nearly identical in the slot as it is outside.

Dallas Cowboys Gamble

Value is all well and good but if you’re a team looking to contend, it can be a gamble. Poor play outside can destroy a defense. It can force you to offer more safety support which will open things up in the middle and on the ground.

So from an investment point of view this is a smart team building strategy. But to fans, investments aren’t nearly important as results. That’s where there’s a disconnect between the billionaire owners, Jerry and Stephen, and the Joneses general manager/player personnel roles on the team. There’s a conflict of interest.

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Will this team building investment strategy pay off for the Dallas Cowboys or will it once again show the brain trust is more obsessed with profits than winning? We’ll see…

  • Published on 08/08/2021 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 08/06/2021 at 14:31 PM