(Editor's Note: With over 20 players set for unrestricted free agency, the Cowboys' roster is destined to look much different in 2022. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 12-5 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will evaluate those players already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we continue the series with cornerback Anthony Brown.)
The Good: Brown seems destined to have detractors no matter what he does, but the simple fact of the matter is that 2021 was the best season of his career. He held off two draft picks to secure the starting corner spot opposite Trevon Diggs, and he played 91% of the Cowboys' snaps – the most of any defender on the team.
He earned a solid, though not spectacular, coverage grade of 66 from ProFootballFocus, and he set career highs for tackles (71), pass breakups (17) and interceptions (3).
The Bad: In an otherwise solid season, Brown had a forgettable Thanksgiving that will be remembered for quite some time.
In a game that featured a whopping 28 total penalties, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr figured out quickly that he could pick on Brown for pass interference – and he did so repeatedly. Brown was flagged for pass interference four times for 91 yards – including a 33-yard penalty that setup Las Vegas' game-winning field goal in overtime.
Ironically, those four flags were the only times Brown was called for defensive pass interference all season. But it's fair to say those four flags played a pivotal part in a loss that dropped the Cowboys to a 7-4 record.
Best Of 2021: Taysom Hill and the Saints made it a point to target Brown in the Dec. 2 matchup in New Orleans, just one week after that miserable Thanksgiving. Brown responded with 10 tackles, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Brown also put the finishing touches on a 44-20 beatdown of the New York Giants in Week 5, picking off a Mike Glennon pass to the sideline and taking it to the house for a touchdown.
Contract Consideration: It feels like yesterday that the Cowboys signed Brown to a three-year, $15.5 million contract extension – and yet he is already entering into the final year of that deal. Don't look now, but he is the third-longest tenured defender on this team, behind only DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory.
Brown is due $5 million this year, and his cap hit is currently $6.5 million. For as many regrettable deals as the Cowboys have signed in recent years, this isn't one of them. Even still, in a league where every team is trying to get younger and cheaper, Brown's salary is one that stands out when looking over the team's finances.
What's Next: This is the brutal reality of the NFL. Brown is coming off his best season as a pro, and he's easily lived up to the contract he signed in 2020.
The fact still remains that the Cowboys spent Top 100 draft picks on Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright just last year – and highly-touted draft picks tend to find their way to the field.
Brown easily fended off the competition last year, but he can't afford to let up now. Again, NFL front offices are always going to prefer younger, cheaper players. Brown needs to continue to prove he's the best man for the job if he wants to avoid speculation about his job status.