Welcome to the first article in my new weekly series called Three Point Stance, in which we will be looking at a hot topic surrounding our Dallas Cowboys and presenting three positives for that situation, and likewise, three negatives. Topics will range from roster changes to Super Bowl runs to opinion polls. This series will be posted every Wednesday during both the offseason and regular season.
Today, we will be looking at the advantages and disadvantages of either trading or releasing CB Mike Jenkins. With the recent news that Mike Jenkins has not disclosed to the Cowboys the extent or severity of his shoulder injury, the Cowboys are at a bit of a standstill with how to handle the whole situation, which is slowly becoming a media circus.
To give some background, Jenkins injured the shoulder last season, claimed it healed, then re-injured it. He didn’t report for team workouts or OTAs, but has reported to mini-camps, despite not participating due to his injury and his demands for a trade. When Jason Garrett was asked about the shoulder injury, all he would claim was that it was “a little complicated,” which is more than can be said about the current situation the Cowboys find themselves in.
One would think that Jenkins would be smart about this, and disclose his injury information, especially seeing as how he is the one demanding to be traded, and the Cowboys are willing to give in to those demands. But without the team knowing how bad the injury is, they are forced to keep Jenkins at this point.
With that said, the shoulder plays a big role in the fate of Jenkins, and his role on the Cowboys. The fact remains though, that right now his role is non-existent, and it would almost benefit the Cowboys to get rid of him. Almost.
I can think of three positive reasons for trading him, and three reasons why they shouldn’t- or better yet, can’t - shoulder notwithstanding.
Three Points for Trading/Releasing Mike Jenkins
Depth: The Dallas Cowboys finally have depth at cornerback through the drafting of Morris Claiborne and the free agent signing of Brandon Carr. This depth is what made Jenkins a liability in the first place, coupled with his inconsistent play over his four years in the NFL. During that time, Jenkins has gone from being hyped as a premier corner to being an overrated corner. He tends to get very lax on defense and he blows many coverages. Jenkins was supposed to be a shutdown corner, and he was for the first two years, but has since devolved into nothing more than another body taking space on the field. Now he is a body taking up space on the roster. Because of Orlando Scandrick, and the ability of three safeties (Barry Church, Danny McCray, and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah) to play the cornerback position, this depth gives the Cowboys another body to trade and get some help in other areas of the team.
Youth: Jenkins is a young player. He is entering his 5th year in the NFL and is 27 years old. Jenkins is at his peak and he can start on most teams as a solid cornerback. He has great speed and athleticism, and can fight for the ball with some of the best receivers in the game. Jenkins easily has another 6 or 7 very productive years left in this league before age starts to take its toll – if injuries don’t get to him first – and with the short success window that is present in the NFL what with coaches getting the boot after 3 years, six years is ample time. His conditioning is great, so that could also add some time to his NFL lifespan. As for any injury concerns, he has missed a total of 6 games over his four years, so strength and health shouldn’t be much of a factor. He would be a good addition to a team looking to rebuild and get younger.
There are other pressing needs: The Cowboys don’t have the best secondary in the NFL, but their offseason moves at the cornerback position are a big step towards getting back to having a suffocating secondary to anchor the front seven. FootballOutsiders.com did a comprehensive overview of special teams rankings and the Cowboys came in 25th. They clearly have needs in kick and punt returns, as well as coverage. They also have needs at wide receiver, as there is no clear cut #3 yet, an asset any team must have in this pass-happy era of the NFL. The offensive line could also use some help. Yes, they are young and still developing, but trading for a veteran lineman could provide an anchor on that O-line.
Overall, trading Mike Jenkins has its benefits. But, as with any decision, there are drawbacks.
Three Points that would hinder a Trade/Release of Mike Jenkins
Attitude: Now I understand that athletes get disgruntled all the time and will either hold out on contracts, act like a diva, or other such reprehensible actions, but that’s not the reason I am flagging Jenkins’ attitude. It’s not just his attitude toward his place on the field, it’s the attitude he exudes while on the field. As I mentioned before, he has the tendency to blow coverasges, be lax out on the field, and just flat out not be in the right spot. Now don’t get me wrong, he has shown signs of brilliance, but why would a team take a chance on a guy who is consistently known for blowing plays rather than making them?
Production, or lack thereof: To deny he blows plays would also just be ridiculous. He went from having 51 tackles in 2010 to 21 last year, in 4 less games. If he played those 4 games last year, he would have needed to average 7.5 tackles to match his 2010 numbers, which are his career high. Cowboys fans also consistently saw the name of his jersey on their televisions as he was always seemingly trying to run down receivers he was supposed to be covering. The only year where he had less than 21 tackles? His rookie season of 2008 when he had 19.
Ok, so tackles aren’t the be all and end all. So let’s look at interceptions. He had 1 in 2008, 5 in 2009, 1 in 2010, and 1 in 2011. Out of those seasons, which one was the only one in which the Cowboys made the playoffs? 2009. Is that a coincidence? Hardly.Now it’s unfair to blame all of the Cowboys woes on Mike Jenkins, but he was part of a Swiss cheese secondary that has accounted for most of the reasons why this team hasn’t sniffed a Super Bowl in 17 years.
The unknown shoulder: Yes, that’s a bit of a cheesy pun there, but it’s very a propos to what I want to discuss here, and that’s injuries. This shoulder issue isn’t even known to the Cowboys, let alone another team. No other team will want to take a risk when the primary bread and butter for a cornerback is their arms. They bump the receivers, tip passes, gain interceptions, make tackles, all with their arms. At least, those defenders not named James Harrison. Couple that with the fact that this mystery shoulder injury will put Jenkins on the PUP list, and that also would steer teams away. A healthy Jenkins would only garner a solid player and maybe a 3rd or 4th round pick. An injured Jenkins? Try 6th or 7th round pick, and a backup. Not what the Cowboys would need in a trade scenario, nor what they are looking for. Jenkins is best served to reveal everything there is to know now about this injury, so the Cowboys can pull the trigger if they want to.
It all boils down to this: any team, not just the Cowboys, needs to decide whether the risk of having Jenkins is greater than the reward, and vice versa. The Cowboys need to swiftly nip this in the bud before this snowballs any further. The locker room doesn’t need any T.O.-sized distractions, and the Cowboys need to move on with preparing for their season. Right now, they are preparing as if Mike Jenkins won’t be there, and if Jenkins gets his way, that would be a good thing for the Cowboys.