The Dallas Cowboys are clearly looking to make some changes at safety, having already signed Keanu Neal in free agency and now interviewing others. What does this flurry of activity at the position mean for last year’s starters Donovan Wilson and Xavier Woods?
Dallas is actively meeting with veterans Damontae Kazee, Malik Hooker, and Jayron Kearse even after signing Neal. While we expect Keanu to be doing a lot of work at linebacker in 2021, he may still be a safety in some packages.
None of this is a good sign for Woods’ future. He’s still a free agent after his rookie contract expired last week and doesn’t seem to be getting much attention on the open market. At the very least, Dallas seems determined to find someone new to take over his starting role.
The Cowboys could still be interested in retaining Woods in a reserve role, but that likely wouldn’t happen until a few more waves of free agency have passed. Xavier isn’t going to accept a backup job or the lower money that comes with it until he’s sure there aren’t any starting opportunities available.
And frankly, given his poor play in 2020 and public comments about a lack of effort at times, Xavier Woods may not be on Dallas’ radar at all at this point.
Donovan Wilson is in a much better position. He’s still under contract for two years and is coming off a strong showing in the latter part of the season. While he still needs work in coverage, Wilson proved last year that he can make game-changing plays on a defense which sorely needs them.
FYI Cowboys still value Donovan Wilson, a source said, just trying to find partners with him.
All of this effort to add talent at safety doesn’t appear to be a problem for Wilson. He should still be a key figure in the rotation even if he’s not a starter on the base defense. Depending on how much Keanu Neal gets moved around, Donovan may not play on the base defense but then come in at safety if Neal moves into a linebacker role on nickel and dime formations.
Dallas is probably only going to sign one, if any, of the three veteran safeties that they’re currently interviewing. They also have Jourdan Lewis back in the mix with potential to be converted to safety, plus the ongoing mystery of Reggie Robinson’s role in the secondary.
However it shakes out, Donovan Wilson should still be a significant factor in the Cowboys’ plans for next year. That’s far more than can be said for Xavier Woods, who may be looking for table scraps if he stays on the open market much longer.
Whatever the safety position looks like next year, hopefully these moves help Dallas make needed defensive improvements in 2021.