It’s become a running joke among Dallas Cowboys fans. Every offseason we look at scouting reports for college safeties that will be in the draft, we map out the possibilities of selecting one high in the draft... and then it never happens. Every offseason we scour the big-name safeties in free agency, we try to figure out how they can get in under the cap... then the Cowboys search the bargain bin.
That’s not to say the team hasn't had some success with this strategy of spending very little of their resources, either through the draft or in cap space, on a safety. They did nab Donovan Wilson in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. He turned in a very credible 2020 season but didn’t get much traction in 2021, partly due to injury. They signed three safeties in 2021, and Jayron Kearse was the standout as he moved around the formation and also functioned as a nickel/dime linebacker. Damontae Kazee was the primary free safety and while he didn’t have a monster statistical year, he did supply the Cowboys with some stability back there. Malik Hooker was the third safety who the Cowboys signed in 2021.
Unfortunately, Kearse, Kazee and Hooker are all free agents again after coming over on one-year deals. The Cowboys have a safety problem, again.
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell cites the need for the Cowboys to find a long-term solution at safety as one of this offseason’s key priorities to improve the team..
Find a long-term solution at safety.
While most of the focus will inevitably fall on offensive free agents Dalton Schultz and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys need to come away from this offseason with replacements at safety. Their top three players at the position from a year ago are all free agents. It’s unclear whether Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee or Malik Hooker will be back in 2022. Keanu Neal, whom they converted from safety to linebacker, is also a free agent.
Dallas didn’t spend much at safety last offseason, and with running back Ezekiel Elliott’s contract still virtually unmovable before 2023, I don’t anticipate the organization making too many splashy additions in free agency. The Cowboys would love a safety such as Tyrann Mathieu, but this is probably a position they will address in bulk.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they brought back one of their safeties, added a low-cost option in free agency and used one of their top three picks in the draft to find a future starter.
The Cowboys will have to make some moves in free agency or during the draft at safety. Donovan Wilson is the only current legitimate option under contract for 2022. Guys like Darian Thompson, Israel Mukuamu and Tyler Coyle are in the mix, but those aren’t names the Cowboys want to rely on for their starting safeties.
It seems like Kearse is the favorite for most fans in terms of re-signing one of the free agents, but given his productive year, he won’t come as cheaply this time around. Kazee is also a possibility given his serviceable role as the single-high safety. And that’s important because Dallas under Dan Quinn ran a lot of single-high in 2021.
But Barnwell suggests the Cowboys might use one of their Day 1 or 2 picks on a safety. If you’ve been following the Cowboys you know just how unlikely that is recently. But maybe this is the year.
So who would you want the Cowboys to re-sign at safety? Who on the external free agent market could be an option? And do you believe the Cowboys would really use one their prime draft picks on a safety this year?