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Cowboys CB roster review: Trevon Diggs is back, but that won’t be enough. The Dallas boost Trevon…

While Trevon Diggs’ return from injury is huge, other veterans’ potential exits could leave CB thin for the Cowboys.

One of the Dallas Cowboys’ best players has missed all but two games in 2023. While the return of Trevon Diggs will be a huge boost for the defense this season, the cornerback position faces other challenges with key talents heading to free agency and unproven depth behind them.Diggs suffered a torn ACL in practice before Dallas’ Game 3 against the Arizona Cardinals and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve. The team performed admirably without him, posting 12 wins and winning the NFC East. Although Diggs is still the best CB on the roster, his return will help the Cowboys finally make a positive statement in the playoffs. One of the main reasons Dallas was able to compete without Diggs was the release of DaRon Bland, where he threw a whopping nine interceptions and returned five for touchdowns. It rightfully earned him recognition as a First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowler, and makes him one of the team’s best bargains in only the third year of his rookie contract.

While the Diggs-Bland duo going forward is exciting to think about, the Cowboys can’t just stand pat at cornerback this offseason. The CB3 spot, which is really a starting role in modern football, has no clear answer based on existing contracted players for next season.

CBs Under Contract for 2024

• Trevon Diggs – $16.25m cap hit

• DaRon Bland – $1.06m cap hit

• Nahshon Wright – $1.44m cap hit

• Israel Mukuamu – $1.09m cap hit

• Eric Scott Jr. – $970k cap hit

• Josh Butler – $795k cap hit

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If common sense doesn’t dictate it already, it has already been reported that Diggs’ contract will be restructured to reduce his cap hit. As much as you don’t like giving a guy more guaranteed money after a serious injury, Dallas doesn’t have much of a choice here and needs to free up at least some cap space in 2024.Elsewhere on the CB depth chart, Stephon Gilmore and Jourdan Lewis are set to hit free agency. While Bland’s big plays were the strengths of the CB group last year, these two veterans were the glue that allowed Dallas to keep the pass defense solvent. The Cowboys face the difficult decision of whether to re-sign or replace her this offseason. Even at 33 years old, Gilmore reminded us why he was one of the NFL’s elite corners for a decade. While he obviously lost a step and had some moments that showed it, Gilmore was more than solid and gave Dallas a fantastic return on the late fifth-round pick they traded for him. It was always a one-year move, though, as he had just a year left on his contract from the Colts.

Lewis moved into primary slot duty once Bland shifted outside and proved why he’s stuck around for seven seasons. With a pick and three forced fumbles, Lewis still showed his play-making spark and also held up well in overall coverage. He turns 29 in August, which isn’t great but also not as bad for a guy playing his role.

Having to replace both Gilmore and Lewis could be tough with no great options behind them. Nahshon Wright hasn’t done anything in three years with the team and probably isn’t getting a fourth. Israel Mukuamu’s strong showing in the 2022 playoffs didn’t translate to more action in 2023, leaving his future in question. And despite glowing reports from last year’s camp and preseason, Eric Scott and Josh Butler are still question marks for now.

Noah Igbinogehene, the former first-round pick that Dallas traded Kelvin Joseph for last August, didn’t do much with his new team. He scored the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the season by returning a blocked field goal against the Giants but was never heard from again. But given that he only arrived a couple of weeks before the regular season, maybe Dallas will offer him a pittance to stick around for a full offseason.

Obviously, the Cowboys can’t just go into 2024 with who they’ve already got. Re-signing one of Gilmore or Lewis seems necessary, and Bland’s flexibility between playing outside or the slot allows you to make the best choice between age, money, and fit with Mike Zimmer’s arrival as defensive coordinator. You could even consider both; added insurance against Diggs’ injury recovery and Gilmore’s age. If not one of them, some other veteran free agent seems likely.

Drafting a cornerback high would also make sense this year. There’s a good chance that Dallas won’t be able to re-sign Bland after 2025 given what they’re already paying Diggs. A newcomer on a fresh four-year rookie deal would help prepare for Bland’s exit and make a good fiscal pairing with Diggs’ contract for the next several seasons.

There’s a lot to shake out here. Thankfully, the Cowboys do have Trevon Diggs’ return and DaRon Bland’s ascension as a strong foundation for the position. But with one key role going vacant and no other reliable assets on the depth chart, Dallas has to either re-sign one of Stephon Gilmore and Jourdan Lewis or make some other significant move to replace them. Even that one move would leave them thin, so it looks like a busy offseason for the Cowboys at cornerback.

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