Cowboys position series: Cornerbacks

This is the 11th installment of our 12-part series breaking down the Cowboys roster. Today we look at cornerbacks.

Players: Terence Newman (signed through 2014), Mike Jenkins (signed through 2012), Orlando Scandrick (signed through 2016), Alan Ball (unrestricted free agent), Frank Walker (unrestricted free agent), Mario Butler (signed futures contract), C.J. Wilson (signed futures contract)

Top free agents: Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons; Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans; Brandon Carr, Kansas City Chiefs; Carlos Rogers, San Francisco 49ers; Stanford Routt, Oakland Raiders

Top draft prospects: Morris Claiborne, LSU; Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama; Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama; Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska; Trumaine Johnson, Montana

2011 review: The cornerbacks’ poor play was the primary reason the Cowboys ranked 23rd in the NFL in passing defense. Terence Newman had four picks in the first seven games, but he was terrible in the second half of the season for the second consecutive year. Opponents averaged almost 10 yards per attempt against Newman for the season, which is completely unacceptable for a cornerback. The New Year’s Day game against the Giants, when Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks torched him repeatedly, might have been the worst of Newman’s career. Orlando Scandrick, who signed a five-year, $27 million contract extension during the preseason, also struggled most of the season. Mike Jenkins performed well considering the long list of injuries that he dealt with during the season, but like Scandrick, Jenkins only intercepted one pass.

Offseason preview: It’s a no-brainer to release Newman, which would create an additional $4-6 million of cap space, depending on the date of the roster move. The Cowboys cannot make the mistake of just handing Scandrick a starting role just because he’s paid at that level. He hasn’t done anything to prove he’s capable of being anything more than a nickel back. Acquiring a cornerback to pair with Jenkins should be one of the Cowboys’ top priorities. The only good, young corner on the free agent market is Kansas City’s Brandon Carr, which means he’s likely to be paid like a Pro Bowler even though he’s never been one. Newman’s contract should have taught the Cowboys the danger of investing heavily in corners who are nearing 30, such as Brent Grimes or Cortland Finnegan. The Cowboys need to pick a corner in the first couple rounds of the draft.

Bryan Broaddus’ Scout’s Eye: If the pass rush for the Cowboys was better, maybe the cornerbacks wouldn't have had so many problems during the season. I believe it would have helped, but I will not allow that to be the reason for all of the issues. Other than Jenkins, the cornerbacks were awful and it didn't matter who the Cowboys put in the mix. It's time for Newman and Ball to move on. At the nickel, I am not going to give Scandrick a pass either. I understand that playing the nickel slot is difficult, but he was nowhere near as good he needed to be. I am not sold on Scandrick as a starter but the front office and coaching staff might be. I don't see them spending big money in free agency for the corner spot but instead looking at affordable options off the street or in the draft. Scandrick might start, and I think even if they draft a player in the first round, such as Kirkpatrick, Scandrick will start until the new addition gets his feet under him. This is a position the Cowboys need to address quickly and with a quality player.

Need meter (0-5): 5