Has Brandon Carr been upgrade over Terence Newman?

IRVING, Texas – Rob Ryan wants to revise the bold claim he made this summer that cornerback Brandon Carr was the best player in free agency, period.

“I forgot Peyton Manning was out there,” Ryan said with a laugh. “He’s great, though. I am going to change that and go second best.”

The harsh truth, however, is that an argument can be made that the Cowboys’ $50.1 million free agent hasn’t even been an upgrade over the cornerback he replaced.

ProFootballFocus.com, which grades each play with a plus-minus system, ranked Terence Newman No. 95 among cornerbacks last season. Carr is tied at No. 100 in the website’s cornerback rankings this season.

According to Stats Inc., opponents completed 44 of 77 passes for 758 yards (14th most in the NFL) and three touchdowns with four interceptions against Newman last season. Those numbers against Carr through 12 games: 41-of-66 for 648 yards (eighth most in the NFL) and four touchdowns with one interception.

However, Ryan is adamant that Carr has played up to his price tag this season.

“He’s been great,” Ryan said. “We have had to move him around and kind of screw with him. It’s tough. But he’s been battling through some things. He’s a quiet guy who never says anything. He’s so well-respected in our locker room. He’s been great and serious. He loves football and he’s definitely the right guy.”

Said Carr, who has been critical of himself: “It’s fine. I can handle all the scrutiny. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. I’m in a position where I’m fair game to everybody. I can handle whatever they have to say. I don’t have to read it, but I know it’s out there. All I can do is come in every day, keep getting better, keep working.”

The Cowboys will see Newman wearing Bengals stripes on Sunday, and he looks much more like the cornerback who earned a rich extension in 2008 than the guy who was ridiculously overpaid the last couple of years. He’s a quality NFL cornerback again – No. 29 in Pro Football Focus’ rankings this season – after reuniting with former Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer in Cincinnati.

Having said that, it’s not fair to question whether the Cowboys should have kept Newman, who was the defense’s weakest link during the late-season collapse that cost the Cowboys a playoff spot last year.

“You think it was tough on Terence Newman? It was worse on me,” Ryan said. “But Terence gave me everything he had. I liked him. He played hurt. Nobody cares about that.

“But he’s having a helluva year. I’m happy for him. I think he needed a change of scenery, getting back with his old coach. It was probably great for him. I think we needed a change of scenery.”

The Cowboys really need Carr to play up to his billing – or at least better than Newman did last season.