The ripple effects from the Cowboys’ early offseason moves are already being seen. With Dallas re-signing safety Donovan Wilson to a new three-year deal on Tuesday, it adds to the speculation that Israel Mukuamu may be switching to cornerback in 2023.
Taken in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Mukuamu was immediately made a full-time safety after playing both secondary roles during his college career at South Carolina. At 6’4” and over 200 pounds, he certainly has the size that Dan Quinn loves from his defensive backs.
Stuck behind the trio of Wilson, Jayron Kearse, and Malik Hooker on the safety depth chart, Mukuamu’s opportunities in the regular season have been rare. He’s been one of Dallas’ most spectacular performers the last two preseasons, but that hasn’t translated into more work in the real games.
However, after injuries rocked the cornerback position last year, a new pathway to playing time opened up. With Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis out, the Cowboys naturally first turned to Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright as recent Day 2 draft picks. But disappointing results from them led to Mukuamu getting some significant usage at cornerback in Dallas’ two playoff games.
The general impression from last year was that Mukuamu seemed more competent overall at corner than his more highly-drafted classmates. While the Cowboys did just acquire Stephon Gilmore and have DaRon Bland as an exciting young prospect, Jourdan Lewis’ future is still up in the air as a potential cap casualty. And after what we saw last year, having a capable CB4 on the roster is no small matter.
Had Dallas lost Donovan Wilson in this year’s free agent market, the idea that Mukuamu could be rising into a larger role there was definitely a possibility. But now that the Cowboys’ three-headed beast at safety has been preserved, finding snaps for their intriguing DB prospect would likely have to come at cornerback.
In fact, not long after the news of Wilson’s return broke, Mukuamu retweeted the following on his personal account:
Wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys move Israel Mukuamu to CB full time in 2023.— Ernie (@es3_09) March 14, 2023
Maybe Mukuamu was just happy to be mentioned after two years in relative obscurity. Or maybe he simply likes the idea of spending more time at cornerback.
But between what we saw in the playoffs and now Wilson’s confirmed return, Israel Mukuamu could very well be in for a change. He will still be a versatile backup, which is great for his job security, but now he wants to start really making his mark in his third season. The CB position presents a better opportunity for him in 2023.