Orlando Scandrick: Worth $27 Million for Dallas Cowboys?

Jonathan BalesAnalyst IAugust 31, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Orlando Scandrick #32 of the Dallas Cowboys breaks up a pass intended for Bernard Berrian #87 of the Minnesota Vikings in the first half on August 27, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Cowboys recently signed cornerback Orlando Scandrick to a five-year, $27 million deal with $10 million in guaranteed money. The extension comes as a bit of a surprise considering Scandrick is a nickel cornerback who had what most consider an average 2010 season. While I agree that Scandrick did not necessarily deserve $27 million, I do think the Cowboys were smart to lock him up long term.

I provided Scandrick with the highest mark of any cornerback on the team in my 2010 Cornerback Grades. His 83.4 percent was mostly the result of very solid play down the stretch of the season. Scandrick continued to play hard and improve as other players on defense yielded to the disappointment which accompanied the losses. Here is what I had to say about his play:

Pass Defense:  B

Scandrick began the season poorly, but his play really picked up over the final 10 weeks or so.  His Pass Defense Rating is the worst of any cornerback, but that’s really due to the nature of his position.  He’s on the field during passing situations, meaning the rate of passes he is targeted will naturally be higher.  The 0.88 yards-per-snap that he surrendered was down from 0.95 in 2009.

Run Defense: C+

Scandrick tallied 11 less tackles last season as compared to ’09, but part of the reason for that is that he gave up fewer receptions.  His 11.4 percent missed tackle rate is neither stellar nor horrendous, although it could certainly improve.

In hindsight, I actually think I should have given Scandrick a higher grade. It is sometimes difficult to properly assess the play of cornerbacks because their success or failure is so heavily linked to the pass rush. Although it seems minute, the difference between being asked to consistently cover a receiver for three seconds as compared to 3.5 seconds is actually rather monumental.

I think Scandrick’s solid coverage in 2010 went largely overlooked (even by me, I admit) because of the lack of a formidable pass rush. There’s a reason I ranked him as one of the Cowboys’ 10 best draft picks since 2000.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan obviously agrees, as he undoubtedly signed off on Scandrick’s extension. Ryan likely sees a player with top-notch speed who is asked to play arguably the most difficult position on defense (slot cornerback), as well as one who possesses a trait I didn’t give enough attention in my cornerback grades–the ability to blitz from the slot.

Ryan often calls for blitzes from the secondary in his unique 3-4 defense, and many people forget Scandrick was (sadly) one of the Cowboys’ top blitzers in 2010.  With Ryan in town, I think you’ll see an improvement in all facets of Scandrick’s game (due mostly to an increase in pressure).

Scandrick’s value to the Cowboys seems apparent, but was he worth $27 million? That is starting cornerback money, and while Terence Newman is probably set to play his last season in Dallas, third cornerbacks don’t typically see that sort of payday. To me, that is evidence that Ryan & Co. see Scandrick as a starter opposite Mike Jenkins by 2012–and possibly sooner.

Nonetheless, there is no reason to pay a player more than market value for his services.  This shows me the organization believes Scandrick is primed for a breakout 2011 campaign and decided signing him now–even if it meant “overpaying” at the time–is superior to waiting for him to cash in on the free agent market. From that standpoint, I agree with the decision.

Of course, contracts aren’t always what they appear. Receiving $10 million guaranteed isn’t a gigantic amount on a five-year deal, so it isn’t like the team is “stuck” with O-Scan (I can call him that because we’re pretty good friends. Never met, but I Facebook message him pretty regularly...it’s whatever). Plus, we don’t know how much of that $27 million is “potential” money linked to performance-based bonuses. In reality, this might be a steal for Dallas.

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