The Cowboys are turning over their safety position.
Xavier Woods, a three-year starter at safety for the Cowboys, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Vikings, according to NFL Media and reports.
Woods is the second starter from last year’s secondary (Chidobe Awuzie/Bengals) expected to change teams since free agency began in mid-March. The Vikings have not yet announced the move.
With Woods an unrestricted free agent, the Cowboys addressed their safety depth earlier this week by agreeing to terms with Damontae Kazee and Jayron Kearse. They’ve also reached a deal with veteran safety Keanu Neal, though Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy says Neal will start off working with the linebackers.
Woods, a sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2017, became a starter by the end of his rookie season with Dallas. In 60 career games he has 238 tackles, 18 pass breakups and five interceptions.
Mike McCarthy had some thoughts on the backup quarterback.
And lastly, in light of losing backup quarterback Andy Dalton, leaving the Cowboys with Cooper Rush, Garrett Gilbert and Ben DiNucci – totaling a whole two career NFL starts between the three and 15 game appearances – good to hear the Cowboys apparently aren’t just settling for one of those guys emerging as the backup.
“Well, that’s a position we’ll continue to look at,” McCarthy said. “You definitely want – the most important position in football in my view is the quarterback – so you want as much competition, talent, young, veteran, we’ll continue to watch that.
“There are definitely some veterans we’ve talked to who I’m sure would like the opportunity to be here.”
That, too, must make you smile. Competition is good.
Now it’s going to be a matter of what the Cowboys can afford, or maybe better yet, which one will play for what the Cowboys can afford. There is just not many, if any, Daltons out there, a recent long-time starting veteran now willing to serve in a backup role, other than Alex Smith. And remember, McCarthy was the San Francisco offensive coordinator when the Niners selected Smith with the first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.
An examination of the scenarios the Cowboys could face in the draft.
Cowboys picks: 10
The need for a cornerback is pulsating at The Star, and the Cowboys are looking at Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn. Horn had an outstanding pro day and met with the Cowboys in South Carolina. Surtain has yet to meet Dallas but that could occur next week at Alabama’s pro day. If the Cowboys go with Surtain, he would become just the third Alabama player selected in the first round in franchise history. Dennis Homan (1968) and Lee Roy Jordan (1963) are the others.
Cowboys picks: 44
What if the Cowboys drafted an offensive player in the first round and elected to find a cornerback on Day 2? Last year, Dallas went with the best player available in wide receiver CeeDee Lamb and selected corner Trevon Diggs from Alabama in Round 2. If the Cowboys go offense in Round 1, could Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech) be available on Day 2? Is it a gamble worth taking considering Farley is coming off back surgery but is one of the best corners in the draft? Sticking with corner in Round 1 opens the door for safety Richie Grant (UCF), defensive tackle Jay Tufele (USC) and linebacker Jabril Cox (LSU) in the second round. Syracuse safety Ifeatu Melifonwu has talked to Cowboys officials and might be a Day 2 pick.
Dallas Cowboys’ NFL free-agent signings 2021: With Dak Prescott signed, pass rush and secondary get a boost - Todd Archer, ESPN
A quick look at what Keanu Neal means to the Cowboys.
Safety Keanu Neal and the Dallas Cowboys have reached agreement on a one-year, $5 million deal, a source confirmed to ESPN on Saturday. Neal, 25, has spent all five of his seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, where he played for new Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn after being selected 17th overall in the 2016 draft.
What it means: The safety market is starting to sort itself out, and Neal’s deal that maxes out at $5 million falls in line with what other veterans have received. But will he play safety or could he move to linebacker? Nothing is set in stone but that is an option. Neal played for new coordinator Dan Quinn in Atlanta and had three 100-tackle seasons, while making the Pro Bowl in 2017. He has just two career interceptions, but he has been a solid performer. His arrival could spell the end of Xavier Woods’ time in Dallas. Woods started the last three seasons and is also a free agent.
What’s the risk: Talent-wise, he is an upgrade to the defense. He had 100 tackles last season after coming back from a torn Achilles tendon. He is more of a box player, hence the possibility of playing linebacker, but the Cowboys think Donovan Wilson has some flexibility. They could also look to select a safety early in the draft. If Neal plays linebacker, what does it mean for Leighton Vander Esch or Jaylon Smith? Smith’s $7.2 million base salary is about to become fully guaranteed for the season. If he moved to the strong-side linebacker spot, that’s an awful lot of money for 20-30 snaps per game. Vander Esch’s best season was his rookie year as the weak-side linebacker, but injuries have cut short his last two campaigns.
Rewind: What Tarell Basham’s Scouting Reports Tell Us About The Newest Cowboy - Kevin Brady, Inside the Star
What kind of player is Tarell Basham?
When scouting Basham, I came away really impressed with his pass rush motor. He played with relentless pursuit and energy, seeming to be the exact sort of player that then defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli would love to target.
Basham’s next best trait? His first step. Basham had an explosive burst off the line of scrimmage, and flashed that he could have a high ceiling both against the run and pass because of his get off. You saw him use a nice first step, good punching power, and a quick rip move to defeat blocks at the college level.
In the end, I concluded that Basham was not the “war daddy” Jerry Jones was looking for, but that he could be a nice addition to their pass rush rotation. I saw him as a day two prospect, and thought he’d be a solid second round pick if they went with a corner in round one.
It didn’t play out this way, of course, but now Basham comes to Dallas after stints with both the Colts and Jets.
Remember Blake Jarwin? Just what kind of player will he be in 2021?
On track to be back for the 2021 season, the excitement about Blake Jarwin has been rekindled. After the committee approach in 2018, to Jason Witten’s comeback in 2019, to Dalton Schultz’s chance in 2020, Dallas Cowboys fans finally get to see what a real playmaking TE looks like.
But not everyone is sold on Jarwin in Cowboys Nation. There are some who want the Dallas Cowboys to attack the tight end position in free agency. They want the Cowboys to get a veteran like Zach Ertz (via trade), Tyler Eifert, Jordan Reed, or Trey Burton to lead the unit. They don’t have faith Jarwin can get it done and want to bring in an established presence to man the TE1 spot until Jarwin proves he’s more than a flash in the pan.
So who has it right? Is it the segment of Cowboys Nation who’s skeptical of Blake Jarwin’s ability to be a TE1 or is it the segment who believes Jarwin is the best possible option (best option not named “Kyle Pitts”, that is)?
Obviously, there’s no way to know for sure right now, but I’m here to make the case for the latter. I’m here to tell you Jarwin is the real deal and bringing in a veteran would just be another example of chasing name recognition and not a way to improve the starting lineup.
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