The Oakland Raiders' recent release of cornerback Stanford Routt has created a lot of buzz as to whether the Dallas Cowboys should start their offseason by signing Routt. The answer to that question is no.
Routt will be 29 years old when the 2012 season begins. Terence Newman was 33 years old this past season; a season that will likely send Newman to the unemployment line. Newman in his prime was much more talented than Routt ever was, and saw his talents decline early in his 30s.
If the Cowboys do cut Newman, they will be looking for a cornerback to start alongside Michael Jenkins. Orlando Scandrick is not that player and neither is Routt. Routt was inconsistent with the Raiders. After becoming the full-time starter in 2007, Routt lost his job to Chris Johnson and did not regain his starting job until 2010.
Routt did have an excellent 2010 season, but in 2011, Routt was highly susceptible to big plays. The Cowboys do not need another corner allowing big plays in the passing game. The Cowboys saw enough big plays against them in 2011. They do not need another corner susceptible to allowing them.
The Cowboys also do not need a corner in the second half of his career. The Cowboys need a cornerback who will be a cornerstone of their defense for the next seven to 10 years. If the Cowboys signed Routt, the Cowboys would likely shift their focus in the NFL draft away from cornerback in the first round.
With Routt signed, the likelihood the Cowboys would use their first-round pick on a corner significantly drops—as does the likelihood that the Cowboys would sign Carl Nicks.
Nicks should be the focal point of the Cowboys' offseason. Offensive linemen play at a higher level for much longer than cornerbacks. Nicks could play at an All-Pro level well into his 30s, while Routt is beginning to decline early.
There is a possibility that the Cowboys could sign both. The Cowboys do have plenty of cap room, but with Jason Garrett’s youth movement in 2011, signing two players in their late 20s to long contracts does not seem likely.
There are plenty of teams who will express interest in Routt. Therefore, the Cowboys will not be able to sign Routt to a short contract. Routt will be looking for a longer deal with a decent amount of guaranteed money. There will be a team willing to give Routt the money and years he is seeking. The Cowboys should not be that team.
Routt does have some strong attributes that the Cowboys need at cornerback. The Cowboys struggled against big receivers in 2011. Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson and Hakeem Nicks all dominated the Cowboys because Newman and Jenkins do not have the size to cover them. At 6‘1", Routt would give the Cowboys the size to cover the big athletic receivers they face.
Routt also played for Rob Ryan in Oakland. Routt does know Ryan’s defense, but his best season was in 2010 when Ryan was coaching in Cleveland. The fact that Routt played for Ryan does not translate to immediate success on the field. Abram Elam played for Ryan in the past and he failed to make an impact with the Cowboys in 2011. Routt could be a similar story with a bigger financial impact.
Routt’s size and previous experience with Ryan should not cloud the Cowboys' judgment. Dre Kirkpatrick is more talented, has as much size and would bring a more physical presence to the defense.
Signing Routt may appear to be a step in the right direction because the Cowboys need a cornerback, but the impact caused by signing him would not be. The Cowboys need to have a plan for the offseason. The Cowboys need to focus on signing Carl Nicks and finding an impact cornerback in the draft.
Jason Garrett is looking for long-term success for the Cowboys, and Routt would not translate into long-term success. Kirkpatrick or Janoris Jenkins would be better additions. Starting the offseason by signing Routt would be a mistake for the Cowboys.