The Cowboys didn’t spend a single one of their draft picks in this year’s draft on a safety - or, at least, not a player who was listed as a safety - but could potentially reunite with one of their most productive safeties of the last decade after the news broke Tuesday that Jeff Heath was released by the Raiders.
The Raiders are releasing safety Jeff Heath on Wednesday, Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports. That will make Heath a free agent.
Heath, who turns 30 this month, was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 10 last season when he made two interceptions in a victory over the Broncos.
He signed a two-year deal worth up to $8 million with the Raiders last offseason after spending seven seasons with the Cowboys.
Heath played 13 games last season, missing three with a concussion. He made 37 tackles, three interceptions and four pass breakups.
Stephen Jones talks Cowboys’ draft class, how prepared Dallas was for top CBs to be off the board - Dallas Morning News Staff
The biggest surprise for the Cowboys in this draft was both of the top cornerbacks, Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II, being selected before Dallas got on the clock. But the Cowboys were prepared for that possibility, and it landed them Micah Parsons.
Jones: “We were very prepared. We spent most of the last two days going over what happens if these two corners come off the board on us. We knew if it happened it would probably be late and the other thing we discussed in length was just what it would cost to move up to ensure you’ve got a corner. And as you saw in the top 10, you saw what we got for moving just two picks down from 10 to 12. You can imagine what it costs to go up three or four picks. And then on top of that, these teams were picking players they loved so you were going to have to pay a premium...
“We had long discussions about ‘if the corners go, what’re we going to do here?’ And that’s where we spent a lot of time on Micah, not to mention a couple other players that we really felt like we could get real comfortable with if the two corners went. Which, obviously, that happened.”
2021 NFL Draft: What the Cowboys didn’t do and one thing Dallas definitely got right - Jared Dubin, CBS Sports
Opinions on the Cowboys’ draft haul this year are understandably split, but there were a couple of picks that received near unanimous praise. Of course, the continued neglect for the safety position was a near unanimous criticism as well.
One of these years, the Cowboys will invest actual assets in their safety play. With the team hiring Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator and Stephen Jones dropping pre-draft hints that the team had tried and failed to address the position in the past, it seemed like this might be the year. Alas, no dice.
The Cowboys technically used one draft pick on a safety as they are planning to convert 6-foot-4 South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu (their sixth-round pick) to safety, but they continued to pass on using premium assets to cover up what has been one of the team’s biggest weaknesses for years now.
Their only signing at the position was Damontae Kazee, who was signed for less than $1 million and guaranteed only $250,000. They declined to use one of their four Day Two selections on a safety, instead going with a cornerback, two defensive linemen, and a linebacker.
Since drafting Roy Williams with the No. 8 overall pick back in 2003, the Cowboys have drafted exactly one safety in any of the first four rounds. They haven’t signed a free-agent safety to a multi-year deal since at least 2010, per contract records on Spotrac.com. With a new scheme that requires a ball-hawking center-fielder who can patrol the middle of the field, the failure to address perhaps the team’s most glaring need really stands out — especially when the Cowboys had ample opportunity to do so in the middle rounds, where there was plenty of value at the position.
Pompei: Cowboys, Chargers, Giants, Jaguars among drafts praised by fellow NFL brain trusts - Dan Pompei, The Athletic
There were plenty of Cowboys fans who voiced their displeasure with the team’s draft class this weekend, but it should be comforting to know that many other NFL front offices thought highly of what Dallas did in this draft.
Front-office people said they were impressed with the drafts of the Cowboys, Chargers, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Ravens, Steelers and Vikings, among others.
With linebacker Micah Parsons and cornerback Kelvin Joseph as their first- and second-round picks, the Cowboys were viewed as a team that added two high-end talents to its defense. One scout thinks Joseph was the third-best cornerback in the draft. He also believes both of the Cowboys’ fourth-rounders — linebacker Jabril Cox and offensive tackle Josh Ball — will be NFL starters. He said Ball could have gone in the second round.
The Cowboys won’t be exercising the fifth-year option on Leighton Vander Esch, but want to bring him back on a contract extension. After drafting two linebackers just a few days ago, this sets up an interesting showdown between the team’s two veteran linebackers.
The addition of Parsons, however, also puts a clock on Vander Esch and Smith. One will not be with the Cowboys in 2022, just purely out of economics and salary-cap issues. The Cowboys did not pick up Vander Esch’s $9.1 million fifth-year option for 2022, which would make him an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Smith is under contract through 2025, and his $9.2 million base salary next year becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year. If the Cowboys released him before then, they would save $5 million against the cap.
Whoever plays better in 2021 would seem to have the better chance to be a Cowboy in 2022; Vander Esch with a new deal or Smith on his current deal.
Micah Parsons’ mentor, NFL vet LaVar Arrington, says Cowboys’ pick could be best LB in team history - Calvin Watkins, Dallas Morning News
LaVar Arrington was a highly successful linebacker for the Washington Football Team, frequently causing problems for the Cowboys. Now one of his mentees, Micah Parsons, is coming to Dallas and Arrington thinks he has the chance to be leave a huge mark on the storied franchise.
“He has to be accountable for who he is and not undersell and underachieve what his capabilities are,” Arrington said. “The capabilities he has are on the level of being the greatest linebacker that ever played for that franchise, all things given. If everything works to the better good of what it’s supposed to be. The talent level, the understanding of the game, the ability, everything, all things given, he has that it factor to be the best that’s ever put that uniform on at that position.”
The praise is high. But Arrington understands the pressures of being a first-round pick with expectations to succeed. Arrington mentors young men headed not only to Penn State but to other walks of life. And he just doesn’t let anybody in his circle.
“When he made an Instagram post about my son, I was like, ‘Wow!’” said Micah’s father Terrence Parsons Sr. “[Arrington] said, ‘He’s the first linebacker that reminded me of myself. All I want to do is help build his brand. If you’re not interested let me know. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries.’ I said, ‘No, you’re where he’s trying to get to. So you can give him more insight than I can give him. Go for it.’”
Jerry Jones just can’t help himself. Gambling on players with baggage is in his nature. - Kevin Sherrington, Dallas Morning News
Part of the reason that there was some hesitation about a few of the Cowboys’ draft picks was due to several off-field concerns, of varying natures, surrounding some of these prospects. It’s been a common theme in Dallas, with varied results.
Anyway, the Cowboys are flush with linebackers, at least for the moment, but still light on defensive backs. And that’s why, after coming up empty in the first, they felt compelled to draft Kelvin Joseph in the second. Even if, at 44, the Kentucky cornerback went much higher than most analysts projected.
Could Joseph still end up a walk-in starter? He’d better be. The Cowboys don’t have any good alternatives.
Will McClay has done a terrific job turning around Jerry’s draft history overall, but if you look closely, most of those success stories have been on offense. Defense? DeMarcus Lawrence remains his best pick. Runner-up: Byron Jones. Offense has taken precedence with Jerry. The mistakes he’s made gambling on defense have only forced him to double down.
Even when he went all-in on defense in this draft, a first for the general manager, Jerry couldn’t help himself. It’s the wildcatter in him. Don’t try using his history against him, either. He’ll just cite Randy Moss, whom he passed on because of Moss’ legal history, not to mention Michael Irvin’s. Ever since, Jerry’s tried to make up for that mistake, only to leave a trail pockmarked with them.
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