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2021 NFL free agency simulator gives the Cowboys a new starting safety

The safety position has bedeviled the Cowboys for years.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

With Dak Prescott signed to a record contract, the Dallas Cowboys can now turn their attention to other free agents. Just what position is top of the priority list? It’s hard to say as the Cowboys have quite a few holes to fill, notably on defense. Cornerback is a candidate as only Trevon Diggs and Anthony Brown inspire any confidence among players currently signed for 2021. Defensive tackle is an issue based on last year’s dismal performance in stopping the run. On offense, the Cowboys could use some quality depth at offensive tackle.

But perhaps no position has been an issue longer in Dallas than safety. From the Cowboys refusal to invest premium draft capital in the spot since the days of Roy Williams, to their inability to sign free agents or make trades for players like Earl Thomas or Jamal Adams, the position has been bereft of playmakers. Sixth-round pick Donovan Wilson is a candidate for one spot at safety, but his small sample size still means there is an evaluation to be completed on him. The Cowboys other starter, Xavier Woods, is a free agent.

So will the Cowboys make a significant signing on the free agent market to shore up the position? ESPN seems to thinks so in their recent free agency simulation. They posited several team’s potential bids on players and who the player would eventually sign with. The Cowboys go in on two safeties and land one.

The first one they don’t get.

John Johnson III, S

2020 team: Rams | Free-agent rank: 23

Cowboys’ offer: Three years, $33 million ($20M guaranteed) ... You can be the difference-maker on a defense both on the field and in the locker room while playing in a division that is winnable for years to come, guaranteeing playoff appearances. — Todd Archer

Instead of accepting the Cowboys offer, ESPN thinks he will take a four-year, $50 million ($25M guaranteed) from the Raiders

Undeterred in this exercise, the Cowboys try again, and this time end up with their man.

Anthony Harris, S

2020 team: Vikings | Free-agent rank: 26

Cowboys’ offer: Four years, $44 million ($21M guaranteed) ... We have avoided spending on a safety in free agency and neglected the position early in the draft for too long. You may not have had an interception last season, but we didn’t forget about the six you had in 2019. You’d be a central figure in the remake of a defense that has a new coordinator in Dan Quinn — someone who knows how important the position is to his scheme. — Todd Archer

The decision: Harris picks the Cowboys

Again, it’s just more money. A lot more, actually, when you factor in the lack of a state income tax in Texas. It’s a no-brainer for me. — Graziano

The Dan Quinn factor will paly a role here. The Cowboys new defensive coordinator has had some excellent safeties in his time and likes to have a centerfielder in the middle of his Cover 1/Cover 3-heavy scheme.

The Vikings put the franchised tag on Harris in 2020 after he had six interceptions in 2019 and a PFF grade of 90.5. It was quite a jump for the former undrafted free agent. This past season was a step back for Harris as the Vikings defense as a whole collapsed.

According to Spotrac.com, the Vikings have about $9 million to spend right now. That’s not a whole lot and they have other priority free agents to re-sign. They also estimate Harris’ market value at $14 million a year, which is a little pricey. Even the $11 million a year average projected above seems more than the Cowboys would likely do.