With lots of new faces coming in at safety, it's easy to assume that Darian Thompson won't be back for a fourth season in Dallas. But the Cowboys could've sad cap space by cutting him this offseason have yet to make that move. Could he be a bigger factor in their 2021 plans than we think?
Thompson was a surprise starter early last year, beating out Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for the job and holding it for the first four weeks of 2020. But after giving up several big plays, Darian eventually returned to the bench as Dallas explored other options.
For three seasons the Cowboys have hoped to get something out of Thompson that his first team didn't. He was a 3rd-round pick for the Giants in 2016 but was released at final cuts two years later.
Darian has good size at 6'2″ and over 210 lbs. but also the athleticism to play any role at safety. It's one reason he's hung around Dallas this far, but we now may be in entering on his last few months as a Cowboy.
Dallas let Xavier Woods walk in 2021 free agency but added Damontae Kazee and Jayron Kearse. They also drafted DB Israel Mukuamu in the 6th Round this year and are reportedly moving him to safety full time.
Returning after a hot finish to last season, Donovan Wilson is expected to be one of the two starters. Kazee, a three-year starter in Atlanta under new Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn, is the logical choice to replace Woods as the other.
With Kearse now here as as the experienced backup and Mukuamu a developmental prospect, 27-year-old Darian Thompson feel like an odd man out. When you factor in Keanu Neal's potential to play some safety in a pinch, the numbers definitely don't look good for him.
Thompson will count over $1.2 million against the 2021 salary cap and with only $100k in dead money left on the deal. Honestly, it's somewhat surprising Dallas didn't cut him already.
The fact that they haven't says there's still some perceived value in the player. However, it's likely only as an insurance policy against injuries or perhaps some of Jayron Kearse's personal issues that he was suspended for in 2020.
Dallas can still get the full cap relief if they make Thompson part of their final cuts this year. Right now that's the expectation provided the other safeties makes it through camp and preseason unscathed.
Darian Thompson has never emerged as the reclamation success that the Cowboys hoped for in 2018. He's a solid reserve player and could still find work in that role, but he may need some help from other players if it's going to be with Dallas this season.