(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 Jourdan Lewis..)
The Good: It's fair to say this entire Cowboy cornerback crew had a career outing in Dan Quinn's first season as defensive coordinator.
Like Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis didn't reach the dizzying highs of Trevon Diggs, but there's no debating that the 2021 season was his best since getting drafted 92nd overall back in 2017.
Lewis played 16 games and made 13 starts as the Cowboys' nickel back, setting career highs for interceptions (3) and pass breakups (11). ProFootballFocus graded Lewis at a decent 62.1 in coverage, with 54 receptions on 81 targets on the year.
When he signed his three-year, $13.5 million extension last spring, Lewis was hopeful for more opportunity under Quinn. In 2021, he made the most of it.
The Bad: Perhaps the best compliment you can pay Lewis is that he was rarely victimized throughout a full season playing in the slot, with just a few exceptions.
One of those came in the season opener, when Tom Brady looked Lewis' way in finding Chris Godwin for a pivotal 24-yard gain to set up Tampa Bay's game-winning field goal. It's fair to wonder if Godwin pushed off to create separation for the catch, but Lewis did not get the call and the Buccaneers went on to win the game.
Best Of 2021: Lewis played one of the most active games of his career in the 21-6 road win against the New York Giants. His interception of Mike Glennon on a batted ball by DeMarcus Lawrence set the Cowboys up for their first touchdown of the game. In addition to the pick, he was credited with four pass breakups as the Cowboys held the Giants to 178 passing yards and no touchdowns.
Contract Consideration: Similarly to Brown in 2020, Lewis signed a moderate veteran extension last year and has lived up to it so far.
An average salary of $4.5 million simply isn't a large number by NFL standards, and the Cowboys got good return on their investment in this first year of the deal. Lewis is set to make $3 million in 2022, with a cap hit of $4.6 million. The Cowboys could save $2.3 million by releasing him this offseason – though it would be surprising to see them do that.
What's Next: The main reason that'd be surprising is because Lewis is currently this team's most experienced option in the slot.
Anthony Brown has the versatility to play inside and has done so before, but the vast majority of Lewis' 77 appearances and 39 starts have come in the slot.
The Cowboys did draft Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright at the cornerback position last spring, but neither of them spent time in the slot as rookies – and both of them are better suited to play outside, to be frank.
Things change quickly in this league, but right now it feels likely that Lewis will be back as the Cowboys' primary nickel corner in 2022.