Safety was one of the most-discussed positions of last year for the Dallas Cowboys and that will likely continue in this 2020 offseason. With one starter likely heading out the door, how far will Dallas go to reload and perhaps even upgrade at safety?
Jeff Heath's contract has expired and most are ready for a fresh face in the starting lineup. Heath has been an adequate starter for the last three seasons but nobody would suggest he's anything more than average.
2020 Safety Contract Statuses
- Free Agents
- Jeff Heath (UFA)
- Kavon Frazier (UFA)
- Darian Thompson (UFA)
UFA = Unrestricted
While I could see Heath coming back as a versatile depth option and core special teams player, I don't expect Dallas to offer him anything beyond a minimal backup deal. Jeff will likely test the open market and we'll see how that goes for him.
Meanwhile, Xavier Woods didn't have quite the breakout season in 2019 that we hoped for but he remains a player with perceived upside. Heath's free agency actually helps Woods; Dallas will be even more ready to lean on Xavier in 2020 and focus on the other starting position.
While Donovan Wilson is a young prospect that we're excited about, trusting him to start next season would be a incredible leap of faith. Wilson flashed plenty during the last preseason but has yet to get any real-game opportunities.
Free agents Kavon Frazier and Darian Thompson are both solid depth players but neither has ever shown much beyond that. Most would rather roll the dice on Wilson than turn the job over to them.
That leaves safety as a position where the Cowboys could really do anything, much like we anticipated in 2019. But Dallas punted last year by sticking with Heath and Woods and perhaps that's a warning sign for what could or couldn't happen now.
A major factor in 2020 is the arrival of Mike Nolan as the new defensive coordinator. With Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard out, we could see a different perspective and priority around the safety position going forward.
Dallas has been content using the undrafted Heath and late-round picks like Woods and Frazier to man the position recently. They decided not to spend big money on Earl Thomas last year or a high draft pick.
However, the cornerback position is just as needy as safety. Just keeping Byron Jones may be the big-money move for the entire secondary, forcing Dallas to look to the bargain bin if they want an experienced option to replace Jeff Heath.
However, a combination of re-signing Jones and drafting a safety high could also be on the table. Again, it goes back to what level of priority Nolan and Mike McCarthy put on the position.
It was a lot easier to predict offseason strategy when we had the trends and understanding of what Jason Garrett's staff liked to do. But this is a great example of how all of us, even lowly bloggers, are now in a learning process with the new coaches.
Will the Cowboys finally make a major investment at safety in 2020? Or will we see more of the same; looking for value and hoping it's not too much of a liability?