The Dallas Cowboys certainly miss having Darren Woodson manning the secondary. But that was a long time ago. For the last four years, the Cowboys have relied on Barry Church to lead an inexperienced group of safeties. As Dallas approaches this offseason with the prospect of losing Barry Church, there is a lot on the line.
Barry Church has donned the leadership role of the secondary for the last four years and has done an excellent job, especially considering that he was an undrafted free agent. He has been top three in tackles on the team each of the last four years, including being the top tackler in 2013 and 2014 seasons. He enters this offseason as a free agent and is looking for a payday. While the cornerback situation is especially challenging with a pair of starters hitting free agency, it is absolutely critical that the Cowboys re-sign Barry Church.
Byron Jones was brought to Dallas in the first round of the 2015 draft after a memorable performance at the combine. His skill, versatility and intelligence was particularly appealing for Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett and he has lived up to expectations thus far. He has seen time at cornerback but barring catastrophic injuries, look for him to be the starting free safety for Dallas for years to come.
JJ Wilcox was drafted by the Cowboys in the third round of the 2013 draft and has played both safety positions for the Cowboys. He enters this offseason as a free agent for the first time in his career. During his tenure in Dallas, he has been replaced with Jeff Heath and Byron Jones because of poor play. 2016 was the best season for Wilcox, in limited playing time he started to improve dramatically. Given the overall hazy picture of the secondary, look for Dallas to retain J.J. Wilcox to provide depth behind Barry Church and Byron Jones.
Ever since coming to Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2013, Jeff Heath has stepped up to every challenge. He has played both safety positions and has been a mainstay on special teams. Jeff Heath will continue his presence in the secondary and provide valuable depth behind Byron Jones, but it will be on special teams that he will truly make his mark.
Kavon Frazier was brought on board in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. With limited playing time on defense and special teams, it is difficult to predict how his professional career will play out. For now, look for Frazier to continue being a backup safety and special teams player.
Summary of Predictions
Starters: Barry Church and Byron Jones. This duo has played well during their two years together and given the uncertainty surrounding the cornerback position, it is important that Dallas keeps this duo together by re-signing Church.
Backups: J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath. While J.J. Wilcox enters this offseason as a free agent, look for the Cowboys to re-sign him given his ability to play both the free safety and strong safety position. Jeff Heath will continue his role as a backup safety and special teams ace.
Reserves: Kavon Frazier. Frazier will continue learning the professional game and will provide secondary depth and talent on special teams.