The safety position with the Dallas Cowboys has been a talking point for what seems like forever and it's been frustrating, to say the least. For some reason, the Cowboys organization hasn't invested in the position fully, leaving it to be a weak point of their defense for far too long.
Darren Woodson won three Super Bowls, was a four-time First-Team All-Pro, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and is the Cowboy's all-time leader in tackles (1,350) while playing the safety, which makes him more than qualified to speak on the position. He recently joined the K&C Masterpiece on 105.3 The Fan, and when asked how he could convince team owner Jerry Jones and the organization to value his old position, he was very candid in his answer.
“I think if you want a safety and you feel like you need to fill the void of playmaker in that position, then you probably have to get one a little early,” Woodson said. “If you're looking for a playmaker, go get one early instead of thinking through the process of, ‘I can turn a special teams player into safety,' or ‘I can go in the fourth, fifth round and find a guy that's serviceable to play that position.' If you want a big-time playmaker, it's just part of it. You roll the dice and go early and hopefully, you get a playmaker.”
The Cowboys did get lucky in 2019 though when it comes to waiting until late in the draft to pick a safety. Donovan Wilson was a sixth-round selection out of Texas A&M, and after a promising start to his rookie campaign was derailed by an ankle injury, he bounced back in 2020 by registering 71 tackles, two interceptions, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 10 starts. However, that doesn't mean the Cowboys should keep that mentality when it comes to the safety position.
A decade after the Cowboys drafted Woodson in the second round, they selected former safety Roy Williams with the eighth pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. Woodson talked about how the Cowboy's investment in Williams early in the draft paid immediate dividends.
“You know when the Cowboys drafted Roy Williams, early in the top 10 picks and you know for five years, he gave you Pro Bowls,” Woodson said. “He gave you one of the hardest hitting players ever to play the game. He was a turnover factory for the team. So, you want to get a playmaker? You got to go get them early. It's no different than any other position. If you want to fill the quarterback position, it would behoove you to go early in the draft and find that that spot. Exactly the same thing for any other position.”
Dallas has a chance to add a playmaker at safety within their first few picks next week. TCU's Trevon Moehrig, UCF's Richie Grant, Oregon's Jevon Holland, and Indiana's Jamar Johnson will be there for the taking, and even though the Cowboys will likely go cornerback with their first pick, one of these players will be there in the second round when they pick at 44.
The Cowboys have put some resources into the safety spot this offseason. They signed former Atlanta Falcons safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee. However, both are only on one-year deals, and the former will spent a lot of time at linebacker in Dan Quinn's defensive scheme.
With that being said, the Cowboys should to take the safety position seriously in this draft with no real long-term solutions yet to be brought on board to play opposite the aforementioned Wilson, and with plenty of options in the draft to choose from, they need to take one expeditiously.
Woodson was asked how important having a playmaker at safety was. He went into detail, but also mentioned not ignoring the cornerback position as well.
“I mean, when you look at some of the guys over the years, specifically at the free safety position, the guy who can really turn the ball over, you're looking for the Ed Reeds, you're looking for, you know, phenomenal players that have ball-hawking skills and they don't come a dime a dozen,” Woodson said. “So I get it, I get it, but there are also options like — you don't have to just look at the safety position, you can look at a guy like Patrick Surtain II. You look for a playmaker on the outside, maybe at the cornerback position but you could solidify some of your secondary by going early in the draft.
“I'm a big believer in, if there is a guy at the position, safety or cornerback, and you know you need help on a different side of the ball, there's a difference-maker, you go get them. And that's been my philosophy. I strongly believe there are some corners early in this draft that they could probably go out and could be game-changers, you could have two bookend corners. There's some options out there. I just think if you want to fill the void, you want someone that's gonna make a difference and not just be a special teamer or fifth-round pick, you will get somebody early that can make plays for you.”
The Cowboys are in a prime spot with their draft position to add a big-time safety for the foreseeable future. Only time will tell which way they go, but one thing is for sure, they shouldn't waste this opportunity to do so.