The safety position has been a group that has often brought about uncertainty for the Dallas Cowboys over the years. We’ve seen tandems such as Ken Hamlin/Gerald Sensabaugh, Barry Church/Jeff Heath, and Xavier Woods/Donovan Wilson, all of which have created many cringeworthy moments at times.
The Cowboys don’t invest any meaningful draft capital at the position despite having their chances over the years. The highest pick they’ve used on a safety in the last 20 years is pick 80 when they selected J.J. Wilcox in 2013. Instead, the Cowboys go the cheaper route, filling the spot with sixth-rounders and UDFAs.
But in 2021, they took a different approach. They threw a bunch of low-cost free-agent darts at players like Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse, and Malik Hooker. Surprisingly, a couple of them hit and they re-upped on Kearse and Hooker last offseason and they now make up the team’s starting safety tandem. Over the last two seasons, the Cowboys' safety position has been a strong unit for them, and it should be again as most of their players are returning. But this goodness will be short-lived if they don’t continue to replenish the unit as the hourglass is dwindling.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve broken down every position group to come up with an offseason plan. So far, we have...
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at quarterback
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at running back
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do on the offensive line
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at wide receiver
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at tight end
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at defensive end
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at defensive tackle
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at linebacker
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at cornerback
Today, we’ll wrap up this series as we take a look at the final position... safety.
WHAT WE KNOW
Kearse and Hooker are under contract for one more season. They have $6.1 million and $4.3 million cap hits respectively.
Donovan Wilson is an unrestricted free agent coming off a career season where he played in every game for the first time in his career, and made more starts than he did in his previous three seasons combined. He led the team with 101 tackles, had five sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception. He was making plays all over the place.
Hybrid safety/corner Israel Mukuamu is entering his third year so the team still has two more years of player control. Also, undrafted guys like Markquese Bell and Tyler Coyle each logged just over 20 defensive snaps last year as the team continues to develop these young guys.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
There are a lot of question marks with this group as this could go from a position of strength to weakness in a hurry if they just let things run their course. Who do they value the most? What will Wilson’s price be on the open market? Should they look to extend either Kearse or Hooker this offseason or let them hit free agency next year? What type of role will Mukuamu have going forward?
WHAT THE COWBOYS SHOULD DO
While Wilson is a fan-favorite of many, his splash-making highlight reel will over-inflate his market price as some team will offer him a nice second contract, but that team shouldn’t be Dallas. Wilson does well when he’s allowed to run downhill. He closes fast and hits hard. But he’s not a well-rounded safety. He can be washed out of plays with bad angles and has a lack of suddenness that slows down his change of direction. Wilson is not a strong coverage corner. If the Cowboys could land him for cheap, he would be welcomed back with open arms, but he won’t be cheap.
Working an extension with Kearse should be atop the priority list, but thinking like the Cowboys front office, that might not be how they roll. So, instead, why not do some more of that low-cost dart throwing and see if they can land another affordable traits guy who fits what Dan Quinn looks for?
And speaking of following a recipe for success, why not take another sixth-round flyer at the safety position? The team has had success with solid contributors like Kavon Frazier, Xavier Woods, Donovan Wilson, and Mukuamu all for the low price of a sixth-round draft pick. Why not give that another go?
Mukuamu is gradually getting better. He did a nice job in the playoffs against Tampa Bay’s star slot receiver Chris Godwin. He’s ready for an expanded role in 2023.
And finally, the team has a couple of young undrafted guys in Bell and Coyle who have potential. While these are complete wild cards and not to be counted on, they do offer some possible depth if one of them can show improvement.