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Cowboys Options for the 4th Safety

Shane Carter

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Bottom Line: Are the Cowboys Better or Worse for 2018?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Cowboys have traditionally gone into the regular season with four safeties, which has made it more puzzling why going into training camp, they only have three: Xavier Woods, Kavon Frazier and Jeff Heath. Byron Jones, one of last year's starting safeties, was switched back to his original corner spot. While that was a great move for the cornerback group, it created a huge hole at safety.

It seemed likely Dallas would sign one in free agency, but March came and went and the Cowboys didn't sign one. Despite there being quality names available, the Cowboys chose not to try their hands.

The next logical step was to address the need in the draft. There were plenty of quality safeties, or even corners who could switch to the position. After 256 picks, Dallas had nine of their own. None of them were a safety.

It's been reported that the team intends to add another safety at some point. There are a few routes the team can go, but it's not just a matter of who the player is, but how the Cowboys get him.

Sign a Free Agent Safety

The team currently sits on about $8 million in cap space, which may not seem like much but might be enough to get a quality player for an agreeable price. The most frequently heard names are Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston. All three all have plenty to offer, and would make the team's depth better, and bring a sigh of relief going into the summer.

Eric Reid is the most talented of the bunch, who would actually come in and potentially be up for the starting spot. However, he is currently in the middle of a collusion case against the NFL, claiming he hasn't been signed to a team as a result of his kneeling for the national anthem. Given this and Jerry Jones's stance on the pregame kneeling, this isn't a likely pairing.

Tre Boston had a great season in 2017, with five interceptions and eight passes deflected. It's puzzling that he not only made it to free agency, but that he's still available. He may be searching for a long-term deal after his one-year prove-it deal with the Chargers worked out so well. Tre Boston may have to wait and see if another team gets desperate.

Kenny Vaccaro makes plenty of sense. Not only did the Cowboys have interest in drafting Vaccaro back in the 2013 NFL Draft, but it was reported that the Cowboys tried to trade for him last season. His skills have diminished over the last few seasons, but he would be great in rotation. He probably isn't a starter any more, but he's only 27 and has plenty left to offer.

Position Switch

The Cowboys just got done with one position change with Byron Jones, but what if they want to switch another? While this seems like the unlikeliest scenario, it has been brought up that Chidobe Awuzie, last year's second round pick, could play safety.

Chidobe Awuzie played fantastic once he was given the starting spot last season, and it looked as if he's going to be the number one corner, but his tackling skills and ability to play all over may make him an option to switch to safety.

Truthfully, I think the Cowboys like a cornerback group featuring Awuzie, Byron Jones and Jourdan Lewis, lead by secondary coach, Kris Richard. I also know the Cowboys won't be afraid to switch a player out of position if they feel it's what's best for the team and gives them the best chance to win. Don't sleep on this option just yet.

Undrafted Free Agent

The Cowboys didn't draft a single safety. However, they signed three undrafted free agents who all play the position: Kameron Kelly, Tyree Robinson and Kyle Queiro. One of the three have a great opportunity to make the team despite not being picked. This looks like the likeliest way the team will go.

Kameron Kelly was surprisingly not drafted out of San Diego State. He was expected to be a day three selection, or possibly go as high as the fourth round. He's 6'2" 205 pounds and has the flexibility to play both safety and corner. He plays well in coverage and is a solid tackler despite his lack of speed. Kelly looks like the possible favorite to take the fourth spot.

Tyree Robinson is like Kameron Kelly in size. He's 6'3" 200 pounds out of Oregon. He's not the greatest tackler, but plays well in zone coverage. He has the size you want in a safety, but he needs a bit more developing before he's ready, and is likely to be a practice squad player.

Kyle Queiro comes from Northwestern and plays like a linebacker. He's 6'3" 220 pounds, and has played both the up and down safety spots. His skills are much like Kavon Frazier, and he's like a new type of safety/linebacker hybrid such as Mark Barron or Deone Bucannon. He plays well in zone coverage, but is not as refined in man like Kameron Kelly. If he doesn't make the transition to safety, he looks like he could be a good linebacker project.

Trade

Finally, what you've probably been waiting for me to get to -- the Earl Thomas to Dallas scenario is probably never going to be dropped until both sides definitively say it's not happening. However, it almost makes too much sense to NOT do it.

In 2019, Earl Thomas will be a free agent, and at that point he can go to Dallas of his own free will. Seattle would lose him for nothing. Earl Thomas has made clear his love for the Seahawks but would also love to play for his favorite team growing up. If the Seahawks want to avoid losing Thomas for nothing, they need to trade him this year.

If the Cowboys are able to trade for Thomas, they would have to give up either a reasonably high draft pick, like a third, or a late round pick plus a player Seattle is interested in. This is most Cowboys fans' favorite possibility, and would be a great add for Dallas.

Thomas will be 30 next May, and there's no telling what his value is. He was an All-Pro a season ago, so his skills haven't diminished and his price hasn't been affected. If an Earl Thomas trade can happen, it should happen. The Seahawks need to get younger and save some money, and the Cowboys have a squad that's ready to compete now. This might not be the likeliest way to go, but it would be the best.



Lifelong Cowboys fan, who doesn’t mind telling the harsh truth. I’ve got a Bachelors Degree in Electronic Media and Communications from Texas Tech University. I welcome all opinions but I will shut down any troll.

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Dallas Cowboys

Will Dallas Cowboys Address Backup RB in Free Agency or 2019 Draft?

Jess Haynie

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Darius Jackson

The Dallas Cowboys' backup running back spot may not seem like a high priority compared to other 2019 offseason issues. But all it takes is one bad play for Ezekiel Elliott to be lost, and the Dallas offense leans too heavily on the RB position to take his backup plan lightly. Will the team be looking to improve the talent behind Zeke through free agency or the draft?

Right now, the only running backs signed to the Cowboys' roster are Elliott, Darius Jackson, and Jordan Chunn. The backup for the last few seasons, Rod Smith, is currently an unrestricted free agent.

Jackson and Chunn have a combined six carries for 16 yards in their careers, and all of those came from Darius in the Cowboys' meaningless 2018 regular-season finale. Chunn spent all of his rookie season on the practice squad.

A sixth-round pick for Dallas in 2016, Darius Jackson is on his third stint with the Cowboys after stops in Cleveland and Green Bay in between. He has flashed some electric running ability at times but clearly hasn't been able to stick with a team. Could 2019 be his chance?

Jordan Chunn was an undrafted free agent out of Troy last year. He's a big, powerful runner with some deceptive athletic moves as well.

What stands out most with both of these guys isn't positive, though, and that's their mutual inexperience and draft capital. Would the Cowboys really leave their RB depth chart so thin when they're trying to make a championship run?

Dallas Cowboys Need More From RB Rod Smith

Dallas Cowboys RB Rod Smith

Dallas could be hoping to eventually re-sign Rod Smith at a bargain price. He's a solid backup and special teams leader, and the longer he sits unsigned in free agency then the lower his price should be.

But is it time for the Cowboys to invest more in their other running backs? Not only is 2019 a critical year, but upcoming contract negotiations with Elliott could make it a wise move.

This upcoming season is the last one of Zeke's standard rookie contract. Dallas will have to decide if they want to sign him long-term or let him play 2020 on his fifth-year option as a former first-round draft pick, which would pay him about $9 million.

Signing or drafting a player of consequence now, and having them under contract over the next few seasons, would give the Cowboys some added leverage in contract negotiations with Elliott.

What's more, who's to say that Zeke's impressive durability will just continue? He's already had a lot of touches in three years, even with the six suspension games. Maybe it's time to find someone who you don't mind giving some of the workload to?

Some of the top free agents available likely won't want the reduced role, and money, that playing behind Elliott will mean. That would take guys like Jay Ajayi and C.J. Anderson off the list.

What about older veteran who can still ball, like Marshawn Lynch, Darren Sproles, or Doug Martin? You might not want them as a featured player anymore but they could still be effective on limited touches. Joining a potential contender like the Cowboys in a supporting role could be exactly what these guys are looking for.

Other free agent options would be players who are used to backup roles, such as Isaiah Crowell, T.J. Yeldon, or Spencer Ware. They would be probable upgrades from Rod Smith but for minimal money if they stay unsigned much longer.

Justice Hill

Oklhoma St. RB Justice Hill

The draft is another way to add some RB talent, and it could be the smartest one. A drafted player, even as high as Dallas' second-round pick, would have a four-year rookie deal at a minimal salary.

One player that could make a lot of sense for the Cowboys is Justice Hill out of Oklahoma State. He brings a change of pace from Elliott as a smaller, quicker back and could be available for them during Day 2 of the draft.

Hill was featured as a potential Cowboys target by our Brian Martin a few weeks ago.

You might say that having Elliott makes any sort of serious draft pick at running back a wasted pick. But with Zeke turning 26 after the 2020 season, the Cowboys might be willing to let someone else give him a huge deal and move on to a much cheaper option.

And again, who says that Elliott makes it through another 16-game season and playoffs without a major injury? It can happen to the best of them.

Clearly, this could go any number of ways. Dallas might bring back Rod Smith or some comparable player for a cheap, easy answer at backup running back. Maybe they invest in a more proven free agent, or perhaps they draft someone early enough to matter.

However it goes, let's just say that I highly doubt Darius Jackson will be RB2 come September.



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Dallas Cowboys Head Toward NFL Draft with No Glaring Needs

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten Retiring, Joining MNF Broadcast Booth

When the offseason began after the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, it was clear that they were a team on the rise, but had several areas they needed to address as free agency and the draft approached.

The team had holes or depth issues at safety, defensive tackle, swing tackle, wide receiver, defensive end, and tight end. Through the first two weeks of free agency, the Dallas Cowboys have taken care of each of those areas.

With the signings of George Iloka, Christian Covington, Cameron Fleming, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Kerry Hyder, and Jason Witten, The Dallas Cowboys have set themselves up to approach the draft with “clear eyes and a full heart.”

As they head into April with the NFL Draft looming, the Cowboys won’t be held back by positional need and can allow their draft board to do the work for them and just add good players. It’s an excellent position to be in as they don’t have to reach for a player at a position of need they may not like as much because they have a veteran presence filling that need.

Backup running back appears to be the only position where the Cowboys could use some depth, but that player for this team is more of a special teams player who gets limited snaps on offense because of the greatness of Ezekiel Elliott. It’s generally a position where there is a lot of talent deep in the draft and undrafted free agent pool, which allows the Cowboys to be patient filling that need behind the NFL’s leading rusher.

Mother than that, if the Dallas Cowboys has to go play a football game and win today, they’d be in great shape to do so.

On the flip side, however, the Cowboys can still add players at defensive tackle, wide receiver, tight end, safety, and defensive end because they aren’t restricted by big contracts to those veteran players. Each of them came to the Cowboys on one-year deals. The veterans that they signed would prohibit them from drafting at that same position, and that’s the point.

The Cowboys have created a formula that works really well for them. Sometimes it get frustrating watching the team not make any big splashes in free agency, especially that first week when other teams are bringing in big-name players to add to their rosters. That formula has led them to a 48-32 record over the last five seasons with three NFC East titles, and two playoff wins, and three divisional round appearances.

And the playoff runs could have been deeper with a bit of luck and correct officiating.

The Dallas Cowboys have set themselves up really well as they now set their sights on the NFL Draft at the end of April. Though they won’t have a first round pick to add to their talent pool, the Cowboys have shown that they can find talent in the second round and beyond. This year will be no different.

Now it’s time to sit back and trust the process.



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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones

Yet another free agency without a big splash by the Dallas Cowboys. What a surprise. Despite entertaining Earl Thomas rumors for a long, long time, the Cowboys' front office has stuck with its philosophy of not overpaying free agents and building the team mainly through the NFL Draft. However, they've actually had some pretty good signings over the last few days that will really benefit the Cowboys when the season comes around.

They've done so with inexpensive free agents who will contribute at a high level on their respective positions. Sure, top free agent signings are fun. But many times, they end up backfiring to teams for spending so much money in one single player. At the end of the day, the Cowboys' way has gotten the team three NFC East Championships since 2014. Many factors come into play, but their team building philosophy can't be as bad as many claim it to be.

George Iloka

The most recent acquisition came in form of former Cincinnati Bengal and Minnesota Viking Safety George Iloka. The Cowboys had a desperate need at the defensive backfield and finally they've done something about it. On a heavy safety market, the Cowboys sat tight while watching the top free agents get top contracts around the league, including Landon Collins' record breaking deal with the Washington Redskins.

Now, they've gotten a guy who can play both safety positions. I'll be surprised if he doesn't take Jeff Heath's job. He's played as a free safety most of his career but being a good tackler, he should do a good job in the box. Iloka will also shine on special teams in Dallas.

So far, my favorite signing may be that of former Green Bay Packer, Randall Cobb. The Cowboys had an important need at the wide receiver position despite counting with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup leading the room. Cole Beasley is a tough guy to replace and although Cobb may not be a better slot receiver than him, he certainly has the experience and the skill set to be a starting slot WR.  What's more, he'll only cost the Cowboys five million while Beasley got a four year deal with which he'll earn $17M over the first two years.

Cowboys en Español: La Afortunada Llegada de Randall Cobb

Cole Beasley will be missed, but the good thing is the front office did a pretty good job at filling the concerning hole on offense. Cooper, Gallup and Cobb are definitely not a bad starting trio to have.

Other under the radar moves will also help the Cowboys. Kerry Hyder may not be a well-known in the NFL but he'll surely contribute to this defensive line as a rotational player. Hyder had eight sacks in 2016 with the Detroit Lions before suffering an Achilles injury in 2017 and dealing with a scheme change last season. Hyder will surely be happy about being back to a 4-3 defense in Dallas.

Christian Covington was another overlooked signing. Covington will help on the interior of the defensive line and although he'll likely not be a starter, he'll be an important piece in the rotation for a very reasonable contract ( also a one-year deal).

For a football team that's constantly criticized for not being active in free agency, the Cowboys have done something at pretty much every position where they need help. Safety, defensive end, defensive tackle, wide receiver and tight end have all been addressed this offseason prior to the NFL Draft. This will give them great flexibility in April and could lead to a pretty good "best player available" strategy.

Now granted, there are still concerns regarding the young "to be extended" group of players. DeMarcus Lawrence hasn't reached an agreement with the Cowboys and will continue to postpone surgery until he does. If the front office doesn't strike a contract with the star pass rusher, it won't be possible to consider this offseason a good one no matter what happens. Dallas can't let him leave.

In the meantime though, they've had a pretty quiet yet successful March. And they're not done yet. Robert Quinn could end up wearing the Star if a trade with the Miami Dolphins does end up taking place. We'll see if the Cowboys continue to build on an already pretty good free agency.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Have Had Quiet, Yet Successful, Free Agency" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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