The Dallas Cowboys have a huge decision to make in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, wherein the team holds the No. 14 overall pick. According to sources close to the team, Dallas has narrowed its decision down to four positions – offensive line, defensive line, cornerback and safety. Many believe the Cowboys will go defense in the first round, which makes sense considering Dallas’ was awful against the pass the last two seasons, giving up franchise record-high numbers to opposing offenses. However, the exact position the Cowboys decide to draft will directly affect the long-term makeup of Dallas’ defense, specifically for guys like Mike Jenkins.
Over the past three seasons, Jenkins has been the Cowboys’ top cornerback and it was no contest. He had a stellar sophomore campaign in 2009, recording his first Pro Bowl selection. While 2010 was a step back for Jenkins due to the fact he played too aggressively, 2011 was a bounce-back year and likely would have been another Pro Bowl season had it not been for his numerous injuries.
Even with the injuries, Jenkins was the Cowboys’ best cornerback this past season while virtually playing with one arm. He enters the 2012 as a contract player at a critical time and Dallas’ first-round pick in this year’s draft will likely decide his fate.
If the Cowboys take a “shutdown” cornerback like Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick at No. 14 overall, then Jenkins’ fate has all but been sealed. It’s shouldn’t be, but that’s just the way it is. Drafting a cornerback in the first round this year isn’t a bad idea, but it would be a much better plan if the Cowboys would get rid of Orlando Scandrick, or at least make him take a pay cut, and then give Jenkins that nice, long-term contract.
Scandrick is making an average of $5 million per year as a below-average No. 3 cornerback while Jenkins is playing like a gladiator through brutal injuries and is in danger of losing his job. Of course, that doesn’t make much sense, which is the norm for personnel moves by the Cowboys.
However, Dallas has done a tremendous job in free agency thus far this off-season, signing viable veterans at key positions, including cornerback Brandon Carr, linebacker Dan Connor, safety Brodney Pool, quarterback Kyle Orton and guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. This allows Dallas the wiggle room to take the best player available at any point in the draft, even if that player is not a position of need.
With that mindset, Dallas should reconsider its situation at cornerback before the Cowboys are on the clock at No. 14. For one, Kirkpatrick and North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins both have admitted to character issues stemming from off-the-field problems. Second, South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore is by far the smartest cornerback in the draft and he’s ready to start in the NFL right now.
Third, Gilmore will likely be available later in the first round and Dallas could trade down, acquire some veteran and/or extra picks for the No. 14 spot and then get a steal in Gilmore. Finally, taking Gilmore instead of Kirkpatrick or Janoris Jenkins is vital if the Cowboys are planning on letting Jenkins walk at the end of the season.
There’s no reason whatsoever Dallas should pay Scandrick his hefty contract to continue to be a cancer in the Cowboys’ secondary, regardless of Mike Jenkins’ situation. If allowed to leave, Jenkins will likely sign a five-year deal in the $50 million range like Carr and several other free agent cornerbacks have done over the past two off-seasons. Don’t think he wouldn’t jump at that chance if Dallas disrespects him.
Respect isn’t even the issue here; winning football games should be the Cowboys’ goal and keeping Scandrick, letting Jenkins go and bringing in a rookie is a horrible idea. Jerry Jones isn’t the greatest general manager in the world anyway, but sheesh!
If the Cowboys do decide to go that route, then bringing in an intelligent, NFL-ready player like Gilmore is essential. As mentioned numerous times here at Rant Sports, Dallas has to keep the mindset this team needs to win now, not five years from now. Having two immature cornerbacks fighting for the No. 2 spot is the last thing a team trying to contend for a Super Bowl needs.
Jones must think his young, unproven players are future Hall of Famers because he let Laurent Robinson walk in free agency without a backup plan at the slot receiver position and now it appears he’s going to do the same with Jenkins. The Dallas faithful better pray he knows what he’s doing or the Cowboys are in for another decade of mediocrity.