Brandon Carr wants this mulligan to count. The veteran defensive back is back with the Dallas Cowboys after spending three years with the Baltimore Ravens, on the heels of having spent five seasons in North Texas. He originally signed with the Cowboys in the free agency spree of 2012 on a five-year, $50.1 million contract with $2.6.50 guaranteed. As celebrated as it was at the moment, unbeknownst to Carr, the contract would be an albatross around his neck for a half decade, as it relates to those outside the organization who felt he never played up to the deal. Of course, that’s subjective, but what’s true is Carr didn’t reel in interceptions like he did with the Kansas City Chiefs — grabbing nine in four seasons.

His initial stint with the Cowboys often robbed him of the chance to take the ball away, because the team lacked both an elite pass rush up front and dominant safety play on the back end, which led coaching to demand less risk-taking that would expose one or the other. To this point, while having just one interception in Dallas, he reeled in six with the Ravens in less than half the time spent with the Cowboys. 

The 34-year-old has since seen much more play at safety though and, not so ironically, that’s the main reason he’s now rejoined the team. While all the world eyes Earl Thomas’ free agency status and the paused Cowboys’ interest in the controversial All-Pro, the team snuck Carr onto the practice squad and, in the process, is set to use what might be a brilliant stroke of personnel maneuvering in 2020. And for his part, the 12-year veteran who’s never missed a single game is as excited as ever to reclaim his No. 39 jersey in Dallas.

“I stay ready,” he told media on Tuesday. “My grind never stops. I’m always staying ready for an opportunity. … I’m in a good space and just ready to work and ready to do what it takes to one, make this squad, but two, make the team as competitive as we can be to make a run.”

That includes the coming conversion to full-time (or at least mostly) safety, something he views as a way to extend his NFL career, seeing as it’s been done before. 

“[That’s] been my thought process for a few years now,” he said of the position change, also noting how “different” it is to be on a practice squad for the first time in his career, but making it clear he has “no pride issues.”

“What I like most about it is I get the opportunity to have a different impact on the game — as far as just using my film study — and to be able to talk across the board as opposed to corner,” Carr said. “I enjoyed it [in Baltimore], just being on the island and having a man-on-man type of mentality [as CB at times], but now it’s more so just trying to be a field general.”

That’s music to the Cowboys ears, considering what Carr brings to the table. Time will tell if he plays at a high level in 2020, but his presence provides a starting caliber defensive back to a unit that needs help on the back end, who is familiar with the Cowboys and deeply rooted in North Texas community, who has zero character concerns and who — at most — would cost the team just $1.03 million in salary if he were to be active for the entire season. 

“He’s just an excellent veteran football player,” new coach Mike McCarthy told media after the signing. “Had a chance to compete against Brandon over the years, and obviously he played well in Baltimore last year. The thing I’m very attracted to is his flexibility to play multiple positions. I think he’s a very good fit for our group.”

Needless to say, new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan agrees.

“Well obviously he’s an experienced player,” Nolan said of Carr. “He’s played corner for a long time, but also at safety when he was in Baltimore. He’s got some versatility. We’re trying to improve our depth on the back end and I think he adds to that depth. 

“So, like I said his experience and versatility would be the two things I like the most.”

It’s undetermined if he’ll suit up for Week 1, considering he needs to acclimate to the playbook and new system under McCarthy and Nolan after having just signed on Sunday, but sources tell CBS Sports it’s a foregone conclusion he’ll be on the field for the Cowboys soon. From there, it’s a matter of what he can do and what they’ll ask of him, but Carr is all in on helping McCarthy hoist a Lombardi Trophy after the head coach admitted it’s Super Bowl or bust for Dallas in 2020.

“I’m just so consumed on trying to figure out a way to get a ring,” Carr said. “I’ve been playing for, this will be 13 years now. I don’t have any hardware. The [ironman] streak is fine, but I want to end this game with some hardware, the ultimate team trophy.”

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