Cowboys hoping for repeat success

ARLINGTON, Texas -- If you're wondering whether you've seen the type of deal the Dallas Cowboys gave Orlando Scandrick on Wednesday before, go back to Dec. 14, 2007.

The Cowboys signed Jay Ratliff to a five-year extension worth $20.5 million and included $8 million in bonus money. At the time, Ratliff had just 13 starts -- 12 at nose tackle -- in his career and 5½ sacks as he moved into the lineup to replace Jason Ferguson, who suffered a torn triceps in the season opener against the New York Giants.

Since then, Ratliff has developed into a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the best defensive tackles in football. He is also one of the most underpaid, and the Cowboys will likely look to sign him to an extension.

Scandrick, the recipient of a five-year, $27 million extension with roughly $10 million guaranteed, has started nine games and has just two interceptions in his three seasons.

The Cowboys are betting that Scandrick, just 24, will be another Ratliff and outperform the contract.

"It was a great deal for both of us," Scandrick said after Wednesday night's practice at Cowboys Stadium. "They were able to do kind of a front-loaded deal and keep me happy, and obviously they were able to do something to keep them happy."

Had the Cowboys signed Nnamdi Asomugha to a contract last month, however, Scandrick almost certainly would have played out the final year of his contract and looked elsewhere. When Asomugha signed with Philadelphia, talks between the Cowboys and Scandrick's agent, Ron Slavin, were jump-started.

The Cowboys' desire to get a deal completed had more to do with 2012 than 2011. There were some who wondered whether Terence Newman would be a Cowboy this year after the team flirted with Asomugha, so that figures to intensify next year. Mike Jenkins, a first-round pick in 2008, is signed through 2012.

The Cowboys had to lock up Scandrick with a long-term extension to be covered at the position in the future. They can -- and should -- keep cornerback near the top of the priority list in next year's draft, but with Scandrick signed, they don't need to force the issue.

Scandrick could have waited and bet on himself by having a good season and possibly earned more in free agency, but once the Cowboys' numbers fell in line with what he had in mind, he decided to sign now.

"Did I think I'd get this money?" Scandrick said. "I can't say I did."

Ever since he arrived in 2008 from Boise State, Scandrick has played with a chip on his shoulder because he felt he should have been selected earlier than the fifth round. He can be testy on and off the field, which is not a bad thing for a cornerback.

Secondary coach Dave Campo said Scandrick has been inquisitive since the first rookie minicamp in 2008 about trying to find ways to improve. There are only a handful of players on the roster who know the rest of the NFL as well as Scandrick.

He has an encyclopedia of knowledge of defensive backs and wide receivers. He knew Asomugha did not intercept a pass until his fourth season. Asomugha had eight in 2006 with Rob Ryan as his defensive coordinator in Oakland. Asomugha has been to the Pro Bowl the last four seasons.

"[The] chip's still on my shoulder," Scandrick said. "I've got a lot to prove. The contract doesn't mean nothing. Now I've got to prove I am worth it."

It wasn't coincidental that Scandrick had perhaps his finest practice of training camp Wednesday. He blocked a field goal. He had a would-be sack. He broke up a number of passes in team, seven-on-seven and one-on-one drills.

At the beginning of the special-teams portion of practice, Scandrick broke down the unit with a big smile.

"I felt energetic, like my confidence was raised," Scandrick said. "I'm not playing to not make mistakes. Now I'm playing to make plays. I expect to have a tremendous year and cross that bridge."

If he responds like Ratliff, the Cowboys will be more than glad they signed him to this contract.

Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.