One of the Dallas Cowboys’ many free agents in 2020 is Safety Jeff Heath, who has been a full-time starter since 2017 and a backup for four seasons before that. While Dallas is expected to look for an upgrade in the starting lineup, could Heath still return to the Cowboys in a lesser role?
Heath, who turns 29 in May, has been a nice value player since going undrafted in 2013. He’s been able to play both the free and strong safety positions, has been one of the better special teams performers, and has had a knack for being on of the better playmakers on defense during his run.
The problem with Jeff isn’t less the lack of big plays but rather the fundamentals. He is too often in the wrong place on coverage or misses tackles in the open field. For any of the turnovers or crucial stops he’s made through the years, there are just as many that he’s been given up to opponents.
Nobody expects the Cowboys to extend Heath’s contract in 2020 to remain in a starting role. They will likely look to the draft or free agency to find a better partner for Xavier Woods in the defensive backfield.
However, given Heath’s experience, versatility, and special teams prowess, could Dallas look to keep him as a backup?
The kind of contract needed to retain Jeff in a reserve role wouldn’t be too different from the deal that just expired. Heath was averaging a little less than $2 million per season the last four years; a perfectly fine amount for a quality backup and special teams leader.
It is also doubtful that there would be much competition for Heath in the 2020 free agency market. Unless a former coach put in a good word, such as Rod Marinelli who’s now with the Oakland Raiders, Jeff could struggle to find a landing spot.
Granted, the coaching change in Dallas will also affect Jeff’s chances of returning. With the entire defensive and even special teams coaching staff gone other than Leon Lett, who isn’t involved with the secondary, nobody is really around to pound the table for Heath.
Bottom line; nobody will be shocked if the Cowboys don’t make an effort to re-sign Jeff Heath. He has been adequate for a few years and arguably a bargain for his low salary, but not a guy who is going to help take your team to the next level as a starter.
However, if the team still values what he can bring as a backup and special teamer, I could easily see Heath getting a new contract with the Cowboys.