Dallas Cowboys have maximized value at the cornerback position

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys are getting heat for their miserly approach to spending the last few years. They’ve repeatedly turned up their nose at free agency and repeatedly let good players walk, all in the name of saving a buck down the road.

“It’s not the money you have, but rather how you spend it.” This motion of the ocean logic is held by many who believe quality trumps quantity when building a roster. It’s also something supported by surplus value models that highlight which positions are replaceable parts and which are something worth investing long-term in.

The cornerback position is a little bit of each.

The Dallas Cowboys have maximized value at the cornerback position

It’s both an extremely important position from a WAR (wins above replacement) and surplus value perspective but also holds a shorter shelf life and quicker learning curve. This all tells us the CB position is something important enough and valuable enough to invest in for a period of time, but not something you want to invest in extra long term.

Much like RB and LB, good CBs are at their best when they’re young. The vast majority of their career WAR is achieved by age 30 and the inevitable fall-off can be severe. Teams do NOT want to be left holding the bag on +30-year-old CB.

The Dallas Cowboys made a fairly controversial decision when they let Byron Jones walk in free agency a few years ago. Rated as one of the better CBs on the planet, Dallas didn’t want to pony up a long-term market-setting deal to keep him in Dallas long-term. They knew that coverage performance is unstable year-to-year and that real value is found in slot CBs.

Following this logic the Cowboys re-signed slot CBs Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis in consecutive seasons. From a WAR perspective slot CB is arguably the most underrated positions on the football field and when one of them like Brown can bounce outside and man the boundary, it offers even more bang for the buck (see also article below).

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The Dallas Cowboys currently have one of the cheapest and youngest CB corps in the NFL. That’s largely by design. Invest long-term in an elite CB1 if you’re lucky enough to find one, and sign slot CBs with inside-outside flex. That’s how to get the most bang for your buck.

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Above all, avoid paying them beyond age 30 because that’s a steep cliff to fall from.