The Dallas Cowboys need cornerbacks. So why did they turn down two proven veterans?

Clarence E. Hill Jr.
·2 min read

Before veteran NFL cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and A.J. Bouye signed free agent contracts with other teams, both players expressed interest in joining the cornerback-needy Dallas Cowboys.

According to league sources, Butler and Bouye separately were essentially told “thanks, but no thanks” by the Cowboys who said they didn’t have the money sign either of them.

Butler, 31, is entering his eighth NFL season after four years with the New England Patriots and three with the Tennessee Titans. He signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals, and his fully-guaranteed contract of $3,250,000 included a $2,175,000 signing bonus.

Bouye, 29, a nine-year veteran and one-time Pro Bowl player, who has been with the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos//, signed a two-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. He is getting $7 million for two years, and that includes a fully guaranteed $3.5 million for 2021.

Neither are breaking the bank with their new teams and would have considered taken even less money to join the Cowboys, according to sources.

But they weren’t even given that opportunity by a Cowboys team that still has huge holes at cornerback despite already signing a franchise-record 10 unrestricted free agents.

The additions include tight end Jeremy Sprinkle, punter Bryan Anger, defensive linemen Brent Urban, Carlos Watkins and Tarell Basham, offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe, deep snapper Jake McQuaide and safeties Keanu Neael, Damonte Kazee and Jayon Kearse.

All got largely bargain-basement deals.

Only Basham got a two-year deal and has the biggest cap number for 2021 at $2.5 million. The nine others were signed for just one season.

Neal got the biggest signing bonus of $3 million but his cap number is just $2 million.

It’s all in keeping with the team’s minimalist approach to free agency after signing quarterback Dak Prescott to a franchise-record four-year, $160 million contract.

After all their moves, the Cowboys have roughly $9 million in cap room available, according to NFL Player’s Association records.

Some of that cap room will be needed to sign their rookie class of 10 prospective selections in the 2021 NFL draft.

With no returning starter opposite Trevon Diggs, it’s readily understood that the Cowboys will target a cornerback early in the draft with the 10th pick in the first round as the likely spot.

Considering the way the Cowboys rebuffed Butler and Bouye, they have seemingly left themselves no choice.

Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn are considered the top two cornerbacks in the draft.

It’s no coincidence that executive vice president of player personnel Will McClay and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn scouted both up close and personnel at their respective pro days last month.