Mistakes happen. Nobody's perfect. You live, you learn.
These cliches are repeated countless times in our life as we help ourselves cope with that ever-nagging feeling of regret. It's a tough spot to be in as the woulda, coulda, shoulda hypotheticals can haunt us forever. Needless to say, when we run into issues, it's always best to put on our forward face and move on. There is no benefit to dwelling as it just holds you back.
When it comes to the front office of the Dallas Cowboys, they've had more than their fair share of missteps. Jerry and Stephen Jones would love to have a mulligan every now and then as they come to the realization that they've made a mistake. One of the most talked-about blunders this front office has made recently is the investment in Jaylon Smith. Th6e team signed him to a six-year $68 million deal prior to the 2019 season. At the time, it looked like a good move as Smith was coming off his best season. Since, however, he's been terrible. The Cowboys could've cut their losses and released him prior to March 21st and saved themselves $7.2 million, but opted to hang with him. This offseason, the Cowboys have reloaded at linebacker with first-round pick Micah Parsons and free-agent signing Keanu Neal. Suddenly, Smith's role on the team is clouded with uncertainty as he could see his playing time diminish.
Smith's contract gaffe is often talked about, but one that is rarely discussed is the re-signing of cornerback Jourdan Lewis. The former third-round pick of the Cowboys back in 2017 signed a three-year $13.5 million deal with $4.75 million of it guaranteed. Those guarantees include a $3.5 million signing bonus as well as his entire 2021 salary of $1.25 million (contract numbers courtesy of spotrac).
On the surface, this doesn't seem like a bad deal. Lewis has shown himself to be a viable slot corner and plays with a level of competitiveness and physicality that fans can appreciate. He does have a little gamble in him, which can be great when it works out; however, this style has also led to him being a huge liability in the secondary at times. Lewis doesn't have the size nor the speed to have a fighting chance against contested passes or deep shots down the field. For this reason, Lewis has been limited to the slot corner role.
While most of us are fine with Lewis hanging on to that role, things have changed recently in Dallas when it comes to their cornerback position group. Three new players have entered the mix. The Cowboys selected two cornerbacks on Day 2 of the draft in Kelvin Joseph (second-round) and Nahshon Wright (third-round). They also have last year's free-agent signing Maurice Canady available after he opted out of the 2020 season (COVID-19).
Both the rookies have nice traits to play the outside and eventually work themselves into a larger role alongside second-year rising star corner Trevon Diggs. Until they're ready, look for the veteran Anthony Brown to hold down one of the spots on the outside. As for the slot, Canady has been showing out in training camp and might just be the team's top slot corner option. This could leave the cornerback position group looking like this...
- Outside corners: Diggs, Brown (backups - Joseph and Wright)
- Slot corner: Canady (backup - Lewis)
- Outside corners: Diggs, Joseph (backup - Wright and Brown)
- Slot corner: Canady (backup - Brown)
This highlights the very limited value of Jourdan Lewis.
When evaluating these situations, we need to lay everything out on the table. First off, there is no financial benefit to releasing Jourdan Lewis right now. There is no money to be saved as all of his 2021 salary is fully guaranteed. Next year is a different story. The team can release him before March and get out of his 2022 and 2023 salaries ($3M and $4.5M respectively). The only benefit to releasing him now is simply the team can't find a use for him and he's taking up a roster spot that could be used for a player who has more to offer the team.
Secondly, viable cornerbacks aren't something that grows on trees. You can never have too much depth at that position. Should bad luck fall upon the Cowboys in the injury department, Lewis could prove serviceable once again.
With those two elements working in Lewis' favor, his roster spot doesn't appear to be in any danger at the moment. However, things can change. Fans may remember that the Cowboys signed veteran corner Nolan Carroll to a three-year $10 million deal in 2017. Four million of that was guaranteed. Carroll was released after only playing two games, leaving the Cowboys with a pricey dead money hit.
The Cowboys cut him because he no longer had any value to the team. And there could come a point where the same is true for Lewis. Is it likely to happen before final roster cuts? Probably not. Could it happen sometime within the season if they need roster space when some player is returning from injured reserve? Maybe. Whichever theory you subscribe to, Lewis hasn't done much in camp this year to make you feel confident about him being a part of this team's future. New deal or not, his time in Dallas may be numbered.
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