If the Dallas Cowboys managed to sign Eric Berry, many fans would be ecstatic as the team did something more to address the safety position. And when you consider the upside of adding a former five-time Pro Bowler to the weakest position on the team, how can you not be excited? In each of his last three seasons where he’s played in at least half the games, he’s earned All-Pro honors so it’s not like his stellar play is buried way back in the earlier part of his career. That’s great news, right?
But the not-so-great part lies in the fact that Berry has only played in three games over the last two seasons and that’s a big concern. So much in fact, that the Kansas City Chiefs made him a post-June 1st cut to clear $9.5 million of cap space. And that concern apparently continues to linger as he was unable to find a new suitor and remains available on the free agent market.
The Cowboys met with Berry back in March after he was let go by the Chiefs, but the front office passed on him as he left Dallas without a deal. Back then, they could’ve just been kicking the tires after the news of Earl Thomas signing with the Baltimore Ravens. Maybe his medicals didn’t check out? Maybe the team preferred to look to the draft to find their new safety? Who knows, but here we are in July and the Cowboys have yet to make a big splash at the safety position, yet Berry remains unsigned. But could things be starting to fall in place?
When you look at the landscape around the NFL, the Cowboys could be the perfect fit for him. For starters, not a lot of teams have much cap space; however, the Cowboys have room. Dallas still has $18.5 million in space for 2019, which is the fifth most of any team in the league. If Berry is forced to take a one-year “prove it” deal, which appears more likely, his options are dwindling. Teams with a lot of space like Buffalo or Cincinnati are going to be difficult landing spots for him to standout in hopes to earn a bigger deal in 2020. He could go there and disappear off the face of the earth, but that’s not going to be the case in Dallas.
The opportunity to play in a secondary coached by Kris Richard sure appears like a big plus for a safety looking for the perfect landing spot. The Cowboys defense is primed to be even better than what they were last year and if you add some big plays from Berry, it’s sure going to create the perception that he was the difference-maker. With Dallas, a big year would boost his stock in a big way as he’d be part of a strong defense on a winning team.
And speaking of winning, if this is where Berry feels he can revive his asking price for next season, his options are limited. Most of the contenders are already set at the safety position. Many of the top teams already grabbed one of the top free agent safeties on the market. Eric Weddle went to the Los Angeles Rams, Tyrann Mathieu went to Kansas City, and Adrian Amos went to Green Bay. To make things even worse for Berry, five of the first six safeties taken off the board in April’s draft went to good teams - Darnell Savage (Packers), Marquise Blair (Seahawks), Nasir Adderly (Chargers), Taylor Rapp (Rams), and Juan Thornhill (Chiefs). Many of teams expected to battle for the title this season are sitting in great shape at safety. Well, except for Dallas.
Of course, this may be how many of us see things as the Jeff Heath/Xavier Woods duo doesn’t exactly inspire us with confidence. The Cowboys may see it differently. Sure, a player like Berry has the potential to make their defensive unit even better, even though he’s not going to be the same dominant force he once was. But if the upgrade he brings doesn’t separate itself very much from what the team already has - why make that investment? The Cowboys have the cap space now, but every dollar they spend counts. With so many other young, more dependable expenditures on the horizon, spending money on Berry doesn’t seem like the Cowboys way of doing business.
Of course, there is another option - keep waiting.
Teams have already spent most of their money in free agency and Berry was left out in the cold. The draft has come and gone and once again - nobody is knocking on Berry’s door to fill any holes that the draft didn’t accomplish. And the date has passed to where teams aren’t even at risk of losing compensatory capital should they now sign him. With all that transpiring, Berry remains unsigned.
If options for Berry are slim, the Cowboys could always move in with an incentive-laced deal that only pays for results. With things like a per-game active bonus, stat milestone (interceptions), or even a playoff birth bonus, the Cowboys could construct a deal with very minimal risk. And if the good Berry shows up and earns those bonuses, well that’s just super fantastic for the Cowboys.
It still looks like a shot in the dark, but landing a veteran safety who has a history of making big plays when he’s healthy could end up capping off what’s already been a remarkable offseason for the Cowboys.