First, a tale of the tape.
Orlando Scandrick is 5-10, weighs 191 pounds and turned 25 on Feb. 10.
Cortland Finnegan is 5-10, weighs 188 pounds and turned 28 on Feb. 2.
As the Cowboys prepare to try to upgrade their personnel in free agency, they need to be comparing the pool of available talent to the players already on the roster, keeping in mind that new additions will be far more costly than the players already on board.
The search for Terence Newman's likely replacement definitely includes Finnegan, who has played his entire career in Tennessee. One of the top two or three cornerbacks available, he will be seeking something like $50 million on the open market.
Scandrick, of course, will begin his five-year, $27 million contract extension in 2012. As Jerry Jones said at the NFL Combine two weeks back, the Cowboys gave Scandrick that deal thinking he was ready to play slot cornerback as well as the outside, and came away a bit disappointed when he was asked to do both. According to StatsPass.com, he allowed a 68.5 percent completion rate in 2011, surrendering 502 yards and two touchdowns.
Playing both on the outside and in the slot, Finnegan gave up completions 60.8 percent of the time, allowing 499 yards and three touchdowns. He played in three more games than Scandrick, who suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1.
Like Finnegan, Scandrick plays with a certain edginess. Finnegan is one of the league's best tackling cornerbacks, and Scandrick is the Cowboys' best tackler at the position. Finnegan has had three interceptions over the last two years, while Scandrick has had two.
Finnegan made the Pro Bowl once, in 2008, but hasn't been back since. Could Scandrick have a similar upside, if given more opportunities?
The question the Cowboys really have to ask themselves is whether Finnegan constitutes enough of an upgrade over Scandrick to pay him double the money, or close to it. Keep in mind, that money is not meant to compensate the player for what he has *already *done, but the things he will do over the course of the contract.
Finnegan likely will be past his prime by the end of any long-term deal. Scandrick will be 29 after the last year of his contract. Finnegan would not offer the added value of doubling as the Cowboys' slot cornerback, since they already have one they love in Scandrick.
The Cowboys also have to consider their long-term budget at the position. Mike Jenkins will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after the coming season. If the team already has Finnegan and Scandrick in sizeable contracts, it may not be able to afford a similar deal for Jenkins, which would put the Cowboys in this same position a year from now, looking to replace a starting cornerback.
The draft is a much cheaper avenue for addressing the position. Last year, No. 14 overall pick Robert Quinn signed a five-year deal with the Rams worth just $9.4 million.