On the outside, the Cowboys are projecting confidence that they will be able to get by with the safeties they have on the roster. Underneath all of that, the Cowboys front office has to be at least a little disappointed in their current situation. They love their own guys in Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and Kavon Frazier. For those reading the tea leaves, though, it appears the Cowboys wanted Earl Thomas, and maybe thought they would have him by now. Everything that has led up to this current situation all has something to do with their belief in the potential of landing Earl Thomas. It’s almost impossible to sell it as anything else but that.
They have shown zero interest in just about every safety that has become available since the offseason began. They told everyone that the two-time All-Pro, Tyrann Mathieu, wasn’t a scheme fit though his résumé would argue differently. The Cowboys also turned their noses up at Tre Boston, Eric Reid, and Kenny Vaccaro. They view all of them as strong safeties despite Boston only playing free safety in his four-year career. Is it possible to read this any other way than a front office that clearly has its heart set on Earl Thomas from the moment he professed his desire to be a Dallas Cowboy?
Just last week, we pointed out that Thomas is over $1.2 million in fines accrued and counting. Nothing has changed there but things have definitely changed for the Cowboys. Their penciled-in starter at free safety, Xavier Woods, has a hamstring strain that puts his week one availability in serious doubt:
Stephen Jones was also asked about safety depth. He said the Cowboys are monitoring Xavier Woods closely, hoping to have him ready for Week 1. If that’s not possible, Jones said they need some guys to step up. If that means playing a strong safety at free, they will. #cowboyswire— David Helman (@HelmanDC) August 22, 2018
This week the Cowboys finally signed a couple of guys but it’s nothing more than a move to get them through the final two preseason games. Jeron Johnson, who played last under Kris Richard in 2016, was coaching high school football when he got the call to work out. So, how are the Cowboys planning to deal with the safety position? Let’s go through the chances of what the Cowboys are likely to do.
Low Chance - Signing a veteran free agent
Head coach Jason Garrett was asked about free agent safeties and he maintained that the Cowboys are open to all available safeties. It’s just hard to see them signing any of them now when they had no interest beforehand. Even with Xavier Woods’ injury, the Cowboys don’t seem desperate to sign any of the remaining free agents.
We have seen the depreciation of value in the safety position throughout free agency. Only three players signed three-year deals in free agency. The biggest of which was a three-year $16.35 million deal for 29-year old Kurt Coleman of the Saints. Morgan Burnett and Bradley McDougald were the other two guys. For the most part, it’s been one or two-year deals well below the perceived market value. The Cowboys didn’t take advantage then because they didn’t like the candidates. They’re definitely not interested in picking the bones of what’s left.
Moderate Chance - Upping the ante for Earl Thomas
The only way this trade will happen is if the Cowboys agree to give the Seahawks more value. It’s probably not something that will occur until roster cuts but if they really want Earl Thomas, they’re going to have to part with a second-round pick. Thomas’ contract is a one-year deal for $8.5 million and if re-signed by the Seahawks, he fully expects to be the highest paid safety. The Cowboys have to feel good about being able to sign him long-term. He already showed his hand there with his desire to come play for his hometown team. Thomas is not going to refuse to play on a one-year deal in Seattle to just play on that same deal in Dallas.
With every day that passes, this doesn’t seem to be in the cards this season. The Cowboys may feel like it’s worth it just wait until he hits free agency next offseason. It really doesn’t feel like things will be worked out between Seattle and Earl Thomas but the Seahawks also don’t seem to want to deal to their NFC rival.
Moderate+ Chance - Trading for a guy at roster cuts
The Cowboys will look at the waiver wire but it’s very possible that they will try and swing a trade with a team they feel have more depth at the position. They managed two trades last year and aren’t afraid to package a late pick or two for a guy that can help. So, which teams might have someone of interest?
Texans - Treston Decoud - He’s a fifth-round pick from last season buried in a deep group.
Colts - TJ Green - He’s a second-rounder from 2016 that they replaced with Malik Hooker.
Lions - Miles Killebrew - He’s a fourth-rounder from 2016 that the Cowboys showed interest in. He’s the Lion’s number two free safety, it may be more expensive to pry him away.
High Chance - Cowboys place a claim but roll with what they have
This is most likely what the Cowboys will end up doing much to the chagrin of the fan base. Over the next two weeks, Tyree Robinson has an opportunity to make a late push for a roster spot. He’s already gaining favor with the coaching staff and was a standout performer at the end of the Bengals game. If he continues to perform well, the Cowboys may feel confident that they can get by until Xavier Woods is healthy.
Jeff Heath is the best option at free safety with Kavon Frazier playing in the box. One other thing to consider is that the Cowboys are pretty confident in their front seven and cornerbacks. That will be a factor in their decision to look outside for help. The Cowboys will most likely place a claim or two for just enough help on the back end in case Woods can’t go in week one.
All along the Cowboys have really only been linked to one man, it’s just hard because so much is not in their control. The Cowboys have to get a handle on their situation at safety. With dwindling options, they no longer have the luxury of time on their hands, the season-opener is fast approaching.