After bringing in a few safeties for visits in free agency, the Cowboys finally signed one when they reached a one-year deal with George Iloka. The natural reaction was that the Cowboys have now signed their safety, and any new additions at the position would come from the draft. But is that necessarily so?
Consider that Iloka is only on a one-year deal, and while we don’t know the particulars of that deal, it is likely to be a very inexpensive contract. When Iloka became a cap casualty from the Bengals in August of last year, he eventually signed a one-year deal with the Vikings. It was cheap.
Vikings gave S George Iloka a one-year, veteran-minimum $790,000 deal, plus $90,000 to sign, per source. Iloka wanted to be reunited with Mike Zimmer.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 22, 2018
While Iloka had some good years with the Bengals, his production and playing time was nothing to write home about last year with the Vikings. It’s hard to imagine that he got too much of a raise to sign with Dallas. His guaranteed money will likely be low meaning that he could be released if he is not making the grade.
Additionally, the Cowboys could part ways with Kavon Frazier with very little dead money if they so desired. The point is that besides Xavier Woods, no other current Cowboys safety is a dead-bolt lock to make the roster. The Cowboys could do what they want.
And what they may want to do is to bring on Eric Berry. The Iloka signing could merely be a low-risk insurance policy to add some stability to the position. It may not be the end game.
While there’s a chance Iloka can come in and prove to be an upgrade over Jeff Heath, there’s also a chance that won’t be the answer. Or, they may not see the leap in production from Xavier Woods who has been developing the past two seasons for them.
As for the questions surrounding Berry, those are real as well. He’s had a hard time staying healthy, which is why he’s still available. It’s also a reason he could be had at a much lower rate than his ability suggests.
Speaking of his injuries, this is where the Iloka deal actually helps. With him on board, Dallas wouldn’t be signing Berry with the expectation that he would have to carry the unit. Instead, anything he gives would be extra making it even more enticing to take the risk.
The Cowboys apparently were concerned with Berry’s health after they met with him.
Cowboys had some concerns about Eric Berry’s health. George Iloka has been durable. The plan is to use him as a strong safety after he has spent most of his time as a free safety.— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 24, 2019
What we don’t know is how concerned were the Cowboys? Were they concerned to the point he was un-signable for them, as in they didn’t think he could play this season? Or were they concerned only to the point that they needed an incentive-laden contract that provided an easy out if Berry couldn’t make it? Berry may have balked at the latter if that is what the Cowboys were thinking. The longer Berry doesn’t find any other suitors, though, the more his price will drop.
We’re not trying to raise any hopes, but the possibility still exists. The Iloka signing does not preclude the Cowboys from pursuing Eric Berry if they think his health is worth the risk. It may just be about what kind of contract Berry would sign. The fact is that a healthy Berry is better than any safety on the Cowboys roster.
Could the Cowboys still want to see if he can be that player once again?