The safety position has been a hot topic in Dallas for a while now. Though the Cowboys have never added an Earl Thomas or Jamal Adams the way some have hoped, 2021 saw some big changes at the position from top to bottom. But will these personnel moves lead to better safety play this season?
Xavier Woods has exited after his four-year stint, signing a free agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings in late March. While ultimately a success story as a 6th-round pick, Woods went from one of the bright young stars on defense to a major liability by his final Cowboys season. There was no indication that the team had any interest in bringing him back.
Instead Dallas opted to look elsewhere for upgrades, primarily by signing veteran Damontae Kazee from the Falcons. A full-time starter since 2018, Kazee has worked with Dan Quinn and had 10 interceptions between 2018-2019.
Creating more turnovers has been the Cowboys' hope for years now. Sometimes it's scheme-related but it can also be about having guys who can finish the play. Kazee will hopefully be a better finisher in the secondary than we've had.
2021 Offseason Movement at S
- Xavier Woods
- Damontae Kazee
- Jayron Kearse
- Israel Mukuamu (R)
Dallas also brought in veteran Jayron Kearse for depth and special teams play. While he could compete with Donovan Wilson for a starting role, Kearse seems more like a trusted reserve who will help bolster John Fassel's groups on kick and punt coverage.
After playing both CB and S at South Carolina, 6th-round rookie Israel Mukuamu is expected to be a full-time safety with the Cowboys. The 6'4″ defensive back has intriguing physical gifts but may be a developmental player only this season.
These new faces join holdovers Wilson and Darian Thompson for the competition in camp. There may only be four spots at safety this year so someone, probably Kearse or Thompson, may not have a seat when the music stops at final cuts.
Donovan Wilson was one of the few bright spots of 2020 as an emerging impact player. If he can add more consistent coverage to the big plays, Wilson could be one of the better defenders on the team by the end of the year.
When it comes to the overall progress of the safety position, improving from Xavier Woods' 2020 performance isn't a hard ask. As long as Kazee is the same player he's been in Atlanta, which isn't a given as he comes from an Achilles tear, he should at least replace Woods and hopefully be a more stable presence in the secondary.
Kearse and Mukuamu aren't necessarily moving the needle outright, but their presence does increase the competition level for the rest of the depth chart. The end result should be a stronger group than last year.