Not so long ago the Dallas Cowboys were heavily criticized for how they appropriated their spending cash. After devoting the bulk of their money to support the passing offense, they seemed to go about the cheapest way possible to support the passing defense.
With roughly $52 devoted to the passing game this year alone (not even to include TE or OL), Dallas is one of the biggest spenders in the league. It’s money well spent too since passing offense is by far the biggest determining factor between wins and losses.
But the second most important part of the game is pass defense, and by all accounts that’s an area the Cowboys have chronically neglected (financially speaking). Over the past two offseasons we’ve seen some great cornerbacks and safeties hit the free agent market. Did the Dallas Cowboys show any interest? Nope.
It wasn’t just star players the Dallas Cowboys turned up their noses at, it was virtually any in-demand starting-caliber defensive back that hit the market.
All of the Dallas Cowboys’ investments in the secondary are outperforming their contracts.
Focused on bargain hunting, Stephen Jones (thrift shopper extraordinaire) looked for value and reclamation projects. The only significant deals Jones made the past couple years was to re-sign a pair of slot cornerbacks to modest multiyear contracts (Brown in ’20 and Lewis in ’21).
To be blunt, Dallas went cheap in the secondary.
With a total of $18.2 million dedicated to the secondary this season, the Dallas Cowboys are among the lowest spenders in the NFL this year. Sure they signed a handful of veteran safeties like Damontae Kazee, Malik Hooker and Jayron Kearse, but not a single safety on this roster even counts a million against the cap.
Even at the all-important cornerback position, Dallas is working with team friendly deals. Trevon Diggs is on his rookie deal, and both Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis signed to slot cornerback-level contracts. In all, Dallas is below market value across the board in the secondary.
Go through the list and every single player is below market value and every single player is outplaying their respective contract. It’s not often you can say something like that about an entire position group. But here we are.
Forget what the bulk stats say. Yes, Dallas is 12th worst in yards yielded through the air this season, but like most counting stats, those are extremely misleading. The Dallas Cowboys are often playing with a lead, forcing opponents to pass, and often times slipping themselves into a bend-but-don’t –break coverage scheme. In terms of pure coverage, the Dallas Cowboys secondary is actually doing quite well.
Trevon Diggs leads the entire NFL in interceptions by a hefty margin. His ball-skills are other-worldly. While people ding him for his yards given up, he more than makes up for it with his big plays. I break it all down just below but basically the value of his big plays made far exceed the value of the plays he’s given up. In fact, he’s the best in the NFL.
But everyone knows all about Trevon. Let’s look at the other two cornerbacks in Dallas: Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis. Something I pointed out in the offseason is how the NFL seems to be undervaluing the nickel cornerback position and a team like the Dallas Cowboys could get ultimate value from the CB position if they signed capable veteran inside guys and asked them play outside.
As it turns out that’s exactly what Dallas is doing with Anthony Brown and it’s paying off enormously for the Cowboys. Brown has been playing like one of the best CBs in the NFL this season and he seems to be getting better by the week.
Just last Sunday Brown pulled in a ridiculous interception displaying elite hand-eye coordination and tremendous savvy for the situation. For as good as Brown was last week, Jourdan Lewis was even better. For the day, Lewis was targeted five times, gave up one catch for zero yards, had three pass break-ups and added an interception of his own.
The three Dallas Cowboys cornerbacks combine to form one of the best top-3 units in the entire NFL. With the ability to execute both man and zone, all three rank near the top of the league in total coverage. Look at the chart below and notice you’ll find all three in, or extremely close to, that top right quadrant.
One of the most unstable areas of the game year to year is coverage. We constantly see units perform at elite levels one year, and crash back to earth the next. Regardless of pedigree, talent, or money spent, it’s consistently one of the most unstable units on the field therefore one of the riskiest investments to make.
So when Dallas declined to invest heavily in the secondary the past couple seasons there was logic involved. It’s no coincidence the Cowboys consistently invest in more stable position groups year after year (with the exception of Jaylon Smith, or course) which is why the passing offense is the most financially supported part of the team.
With a total of $18.2 million dedicated to the secondary this season, the Dallas Cowboys are among the lowest spenders in the NFL this year.
Going up against one of the very best passing attack’s in history this week in Kansas City, the Dallas Cowboys secondary will have their work cut out for them. It’s hard to imagine they’ll hold Patrick Mahomes to under 200 yards like they did to Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan. But they don’t need to.
All this Dallas secondary has to do is keep doing what they’re doing. Make the windows tight, take advantage of poorly thrown balls, and keep out-playing their contracts. The Cowboys offense will do the rest.
No team is getting a return on investment from the secondary like the Dallas Cowboys.
- Published on 11/18/2021 at 13:23 PM
- Last updated at 11/18/2021 at 13:29 PM