(Editor's Note: With NFL free agency in its second month and the draft just over two weeks away, the staff members of DallasCowboys.com are analyzing each position on the Cowboys' roster: what we know and what still needs to be determined. Today, we continue the 11-part series with cornerback.)
IRVING, Texas – There might not be another position on the Cowboys' roster with more long-term uncertainty than cornerback.
Yes, the team brought back Morris Claiborne during free agency. As it stands right now, it also looks like Brandon Carr is set to finish out the final season of his contract. That'll help the Cowboys field a serviceable secondary in the fall, but it leaves a lot of question marks for the future.
However they address that fact, the Cowboys at least have the knowledge that they'll return all of their key corners from the past two seasons for at least one more year.
Here's a breakdown of the cornerback position as it stands here in mid-April:
What We Know: When healthy, Scandrick has been a fixture as the Cowboys' slot cornerback and arguably the best cover corner on the roster. Entering his eighth NFL season last summer, Scandrick tore his ACL near the end of training camp and spent the rest of the year on injured reserve. The 29-year-old Scandrick has started 48 of 102 career games with 337 tackles, 57 pass breakups and 7 interceptions.
Still Need To Know: It remains to be seen how the Cowboys will outline Scandrick's on-field work this offseason. He's expected to be fully ready for training camp, and that's the biggest benchmark. The Cowboys were deliberate with Sean Lee's offseason reps last year coming off knee surgery, so perhaps Scandrick will follow a similar plan. One thing is certain: they'll be glad to see him back healthy in 2016.
What We Know: Carr hasn't missed a game in his four seasons in Dallas – or his entire eight-year career, for that matter. In 2015 he once again started all 16 games and tallied 71 tackles and eight pass breakups. He's still looking for his first interception since 2013, and the entire Cowboys defense realizes it needs more takeaways after finishing last season with a league-low 11.
Still Need To Know: Well, Carr's salary cap figure seems to be an annual offseason topic. He's set to count $13.8 million on the cap in the final season of the five-year, $50.1 million contract he signed in 2012, and in late March he declined to discuss his contract with reporters amid speculation about a possible contract restructure. He did, however, reiterate that he loves playing in Dallas and is preparing for another season. At the NFL Annual Meeting last month, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said nothing has changed in terms of Carr's contract situation. "We are evaluating the same facts. We're looking at where he is in relation to our cap, where he is in relation to our short-and-long-term commitments," Jones said.
What We Know: Claiborne is back on a one-year contract after entering unrestricted free agency in March. The former first-round pick started 11 games in 2015, the most since his 2012 rookie season, and had 42 tackles and nine pass breakups.
Still Need To Know: Will Claiborne build off his strong fourth season? He showed determination last year in returning from a torn patellar tendon in 2014, and his confidence appeared to grow. It was arguably his most productive year since the Cowboys traded up to select him sixth overall in the 2012 draft.
What We Know: Due to injuries in the secondary, Jones bounced between cornerback and safety last year. The Cowboys' 2015 first-round pick originally was promoted to starting free safety in Week 8 against Seattle but ended up starting two games at corner, too. In the final 10 games, Jones came off the field for only three defensive snaps. He finished the season with 76 tackles and 12 pass breakups.
Still Need To Know: Cornerback or safety? The Cowboys eventually would like Jones to be able to focus on one position, but that will likely depend on how the corner and safety depth charts are finalized this offseason with the draft still upcoming. Jones' versatility always gives the defense a fallback plan at either position in the event of injury.
Others to Watch
Deji Olatoye:Signed off the practice squad in November, Olatoye intercepted his first career pass in his first career start in Week 16 at Buffalo and played well in the season's final three games.
Terrance Mitchell:Mitchell, a 2014 seventh-round pick by Dallas who spent the previous season and a half with the Bears, also had a promising three-game stretch to end the 2015 season. A couple weeks after he signed to the practice squad in early December, he found himself as the Cowboys' slot corner and recorded an interception.
Josh Thomas:Originally drafted by the Cowboys in 2011, Thomas was signed to the active roster the final week of the 2015 regular season and re-signed with the team in March. He figures to compete with Olatoye and Mitchell for a backup corner spot.
Brandon McGee: The Cowboys signed McGee to the practice squad the final week of the regular season and then signed him to a Reserve/Future contract.