Free agency helps shape teams in a major way in terms of how good they will be in the upcoming season. Adding veterans at positions of need is very helpful for teams that are a piece or two away from truly contending, or for organizations that do not want to go into the draft with one arm behind their back and be forced to draft for need instead of value.
The Dallas Cowboys have seen some of their free agents walk out of town: Byron Jones to the Dolphins hurts the secondary, Robert Quinn to the Bears hits the defensive line, while the Raiders added a boatload of former Cowboys such as Maliek Collins, Jason Witten, and Jeff Heath. Dallas was able to retain Dak Prescott with the franchise tag, re-sign Amari Cooper to a big deal, and quietly extend tight end Blake Jarwin.
Dallas has also been able to bring in external free agents to at least help sure up some holes across the roster. Gerald McCoy is a big signing for the defensive line, as is his teammate with the Panthers, Dontari Poe. While the previous regime continuously ignored the interior defensive line, that does not appear to be the case with Mike McCarthy and company.
Another free agent that the Cowboys inked is former Packers, Redskins, and — most recently — Bears safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix, of course, previously played under McCarthy in Green Bay.
The Alabama Crimson Tide product is excited to be with the Dallas Cowboys organization while also having the opportunity of reuniting with McCarthy.
“It’s very important,” Clinton-Dix said. “This is a competitive sport and I’m a competitor. The one thing that’s on everybody’s mind in that Dallas organization is winning the championship — winning the Super Bowl. If your mind’s not on that in that front office, you’re in the wrong profession. … This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
And as far as reuniting with McCarthy goes, well, time has truly healed any wounds that might’ve existed two years ago.
”To be able to connect back with the coach who drafted me, who knows me as an individual, as player, as a human being — it couldn’t be set up any better.”
It is no secret that the Cowboys need immediate help in the secondary. That became more obvious once Jones left down, but it is not only at cornerback, of course. Many have linked the Cowboys to another Alabama product, Xavier McKinney, as well as LSU Tigers defensive back Grant Delpit in their mock drafts.
Xavier Woods is a young safety that oozes potential, but he cannot be the only reliable safety on the team. That said, the Cowboys cannot afford to reach in the first-round when considering some of their recent misses in the draft. Adding a veteran that happens to be familiar with what McCarthy expects is a smart play by the Cowboys.
USA Today’s Mark Schofield recently wrote a piece titled “11 best deals and biggest steals in free agency so far”. Schofield included the likes of Emmauel Sanders inking with the Saints, Javon Hargrave heading to the Eagles, and Eric Ebron leaving the Colts in favor of the Steelers. Schofield also included a Cowboys signing, saying that “it is rare to find an immediate starter ... on such a low-cost, but the Dallas Cowboys accomplished just that ...”
It is rare to find an immediate starter on either side of the football on such a low-cost deal, but the Dallas Cowboys accomplished just that, signing HaHa Clinton-Dix to a one-year deal worth just $4 million with $2.5 guaranteed.
There was a massive need at the safety position for the Dallas Cowboys, having lost safety Jeff Heath to the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency. In Clinton-Dix they get a versatile safety who has shown over the past two seasons tremendous growth as a coverage defender. During his time with the Green Bay Packers, Clinton-Dix surrendered an average of ten yards or more per each reception in each of his four seasons. However, the past two years that average dropped to 9.1 and 9.2 yards per reception each season. Furthermore, while his coverage grade from Pro Football Focus remained below 70.0 in each of his first four seasons, that number jumped to 82.0 in 2018 and 75.5 in 2019. The Cowboys are getting a much-improved safety that seems to be coming into his own as a coverage defender, for a very team-friendly deal. Tremendous value.
Many many have pointed to Clinton-Dix’s tackling issues as a cause of concern, which is certainly more than fair. That said, Clinton-Dix offers a big play dynamic in the secondary, even if he suffers with focus and execution.
New Cowboys safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has never missed a game in his six-year NFL career. He has 16 interceptions, 33 pass breakups and 522 tackles in 96 games. This is one of the two INTs he had last year for the Bears pic.twitter.com/IhrsMpoJfc— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 21, 2020
BTB’s own Connor Livesay went to the film to see what the Cowboys are getting in the new safety. While mentioning that Clinton-Dix has lapses in run support, he is an upgrade in coverage over Heath. The thread is definitely worth checking out.
Where Clinton-Dix should make the biggest impace is his coverage abilities against tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He's a far superior cover guy to Jeff Heath. pic.twitter.com/JiwKudthDu— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) March 20, 2020
An important aspect of the Clinton-Dix signing is that it gives the Cowboys a little bit of flexibility come the draft. No, this signing should not deter the Cowboys from selecting a safety that they really like and have graded highly, but it does allow them to not have to reach for a player simply due to the position of need.