Who’s the Cowboys’ Best Free Agent Corner Buy? K.C. Joyner Looks at Three Big-Ticket Prospects

Is Cortland Finnegan up to this
matchup twice a year?

Part three of my discussion with ESPN Insider’s NFL and college analyst K.C. Joyner looks at three of the biggest cornerback free agent prospects — Carlos Rogers, Cortland Finnegan and Brandon Carr.

K.C. Joyner:  somebody else the Cowboys may get a shot at is Carlos Rogers, depending on the the ‘Niners decide to do.   The problem with Rogers, he’s got a 6.6 YPA, had six interceptions, he’s the best combination of ball-hawk and cover guy, a guy who can do both, maybe in the league right now.

But he also is playing in a contract year, and this season all the Washington fans were asking, “where was this guy when we had him?”

CN:  We talked about him last spring, before the free agency period began and your run-down of the Redskins secondary was, Phillip Buchanon was good, Rogers was medicore and DeAngelo Hall was awful.  Now, he gets a one-year deal and he’s great.  He’s not a young guy, is he?

K.C.:  I think he’s responding to San Francisco situation very well.  He was not happy in Washington, for whatever reason.  But he’s 30.  So you’ve got the Nnamdi Asomugha question:  are you going to play big money for a guy whose best years are behind him?

If the Cowboys were looking at a one-year Super Bowl run, Carlos Rogers would be a smart move.  But I don’t think they’re looking at it that way, and I don’t think they should be.

CN:  I see Cortland Finnegan’s name raised a lot and maybe he was hurt last year, but I look at your 2010 metrics and he was bad.  He was 86th and he was one class above Terence Newman in ’10. He’s had good years in the past, but he’s a short corner.

Did he bounce back in 2011?

K.C:  It’s interesting because you’ve done some studies on YPAs in the past and cornerback numbers can move up and down wildly from year to year, and it’s rare to see the guy whose YPA stays constantly good season after season,  Finnegan had a good year this year.  At last check he was in the mid-7s.  He had a solid season, but not a great year.

He has down years every once in a while, but it may mean that he was beaten on a couple of plays.  If you get 70 passes thrown your way and you happen to get beat on one 70 yard pass, you could have the same season from year-to-year and you could go from 6.5 to 7.5 just on the strength of that one pass.  It’s important not to give up that pass, but it might not be indicative of your talent level as a whole.

I think that was more the case with Finnegan last year.  This year, he played well.  I like that he brings a certain physicality and anger and toughness to the secondary.  I think the Dallas secondary could use that.  They’ve had ball-hawking and I’d like them to be more feisty and really get after guys.  I think they’ve been more athletic guys and I’d like to see some more physical guys. From that standpoint he’d be a good fit.

CN:  Let’s talk about Brandon Carr.  You mentioned him last year as someone to keep an eye on, but he was restricted.  This year he’s on the market.  You pointed out that he’s not the glitziest prospect.  He’s been overshadowed on his own team by Brandon Flowers.  Flowers’ metrics were better in ’09 and ’10 but just slightly, maybe half a yard better.

How did Carr play this year and might he be that good buy, because he’s only 25 or 26 years old?

K.C.:  He’d be a good pickup.  Actually, Flowers had an off-season.  They’re both still in the same boat, metics wise.  He’s young.  Carr is a bit hit or miss sometimes.  I like his overall numbers but he is hit or miss.  That’s a bit of a concern but I may be nit-picking the guy, because he’s got a lot of what you want in a cornerback.  He can ball-hawk.  He’s got some speed.

I guess I’m wondering how he would do if I made him my number one guy, because he hasn’t been that guy in Kansas City.  That’s been Flowers.  If you’re putting Carr up there as the number one, I think he’s better as an alternate rather than your shadow corner.  I think he’d be okay against the Eagles, ’cause I don’t think the Eagles are that good when they face solid cornerback competition.

But if you want to face the Giants.  If you want to face Nicks and Manningham and Cruz you’re going to need a true shadow corner.  You’re going to face Hakeem Nicks you need a true shadow corner.  He’s not that. I don’t think he’s quite to that level.  He’d help.  But if I’m putting him in a matchup against a healthy Hakeem Nicks, I’m taking Nicks seven days a week.  He’s not necessarily going to dominate Carr, but if I’m the Giants, I’m not going to be afraid to throw that way.

CN:  When Finnegan is playing well, how would you compare those two?

K.C.:  Finnegan is a better corner.  I don’t know if he fits that top guy role either.  Where I do like Finnegan, I mentioned the Eagles receivers.  They don’t tend to do well against top level cornerbacks.  I think they’d fold their tents against Finnegan.  I think that if you put DeSean Jackson and you put Jeremy Maclin, you put them up against Cortland Finnegan?  Those two don’t handle physical corners and I think Finnegan would get into their heads in no time.

But I don’t think he would match up as well against the Giants receivers.  If Cortland Finnegan tried doing that physical stuff with Nicks?  Nicks would route-run him into a fit.  Not down on Finnegan.  He’s a good corner, but when Nicks is on his game, he’s hard.  And I’m not taking anything away from Victor Cruz, ’cause he had much better numbers than Nicks this year.

Manningham had a down year, but he’s got elite chops at wide receiver — and he’s a guy the Cowboys might consider picking up, by the way.

Next:  Another veteran corner worth investigating, and did Mike Jenkins bounce back from his awful 2010?


Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com