In 2012, the Cowboys made two ballyhooed moves that were supposed to give them a pair of shutdown cornerbacks. Neither Brandon Carr, whom they signed to a five-year, $50.1 million deal, nor Morris Claiborne, whom they traded up to draft No. 6 overall, fulfilled the Cowboys’ expectations.
Five years later, the Cowboys remain without a No. 1 cornerback.
They have not had a Pro Bowl cornerback since 2009 when Terrance Newman and Mike Jenkins both made it. They have gone even longer without a Pro Bowl safety, with Roy Williams getting the all-star nod in 2007.
The Cowboys will use the draft next month to try to upgrade their secondary.
Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore, Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, UCLA’s Fabian Moreau, Washington’s Kevin King and Ohio State’s Gareon Conley are among the top-rated cornerbacks. Ohio State’s Malik Hooker, LSU’s Jamal Adams, Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers, Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu and Florida’s Marcus Maye are among the top-rated safeties.
The Cowboys could use their first choice – No. 28 overall -- on the secondary, and they will draft multiple defensive backs. They don’t have a choice.
Carr left for Baltimore, signing a four-year, $24 million deal with the Ravens. Claiborne left for the Jets, signing a one-year, $5 million deal. The Cowboys signed the less expensive option – Nolan Carroll – getting him for three years and $10 million.
The Cowboys also lost safeties Barry Church, who signed a four-year, $26 million deal with the Jaguars, and J.J. Wilcox, who signed a two-year, $6.25 million deal with the Bucs.
None of the four players the Cowboys lost in free agency was special, though as a group they contributed 39 starts, 254 tackles, five interceptions and 28 defensed passes.
But it also can’t be argued the Cowboys have improved their secondary this offseason.
Pro Football Focus lists Carroll as the 92nd-ranked cornerback last season. Carr ranked 51st and Claiborne 12th, though Claiborne played only seven regular-season games.
Quarterbacks targeted Carroll 87 times and completed 52 passes for 712 yards and four touchdowns.
If the season started today, the Cowboys would list Carroll and Orlando Scandrick as starters at cornerback with Anthony Brown the third corner. Byron Jones returns as the starting free safety with Jeff Heath at strong safety.
But the Cowboys will address both positions in the draft. How desperate are they for defensive back help?
The other four defensive backs the Cowboys have on their roster – Sammy Seamster, Jeremiah McKinnon, Duke Thomas and former quarterback Jamiell Showers – are long shots to make the roster.