Lately it seems that most in Cowboys Nation have already moved on from J.J. Wilcox. I'm starting to wonder if we're not being a bit premature.
A fourth-year pro and Dallas' 2013 third-round pick, J.J. Wilcox is assumed to be the odd man out now that Byron Jones has moved to safety. I've seen roster projections that don't have Wilcox making the team at all, let alone starting. I've seen a suggestion that a move to linebacker might be the only way to save his job.
Given the status of Dallas' defensive backfield as a whole, there's still plenty of room for Wilcox to make the team and perhaps even retain his starting job. Let's consider a few key factors:
J.J. Wilcox is only entering his fourth NFL season. What if he's a bit of a late bloomer?
There's still an entire training camp and preseason for Wilcox to show that he can at least match the production of Barry Church. If he can give the Cowboys at least that much confidence, then Church becomes a much more attractive cap casualty with a higher salary.
J.J. Wilcox would have a good excuse for developing slower than other players. He started his college career as a running back before converting to safety later on. This easily could have hindered his growth, even if it didn't prevent him from being a third-round pick. Dallas knew he'd be a project player.
Who's to say that Byron Jones will get to stay at safety? Our recent history with cornerbacks suggests he may be recalled there at any time.
Let's face it; none of Dallas' corners are sure things. Orlando Scandrick is coming back from injury, Brandon Carr has struggled here and is only getting older, and Morris Claiborne is shaky both with his health and performance.
If Dallas wants to get all of their best players on the field, there's a chance that an improved Wilcox could still be better at his job than one of these guys. That could prompt them to move Byron Jones back to corner and keep Church and Wilcox as the starting safeties.
One injury in the secondary, at corner or safety, could change everything. J.J. Wilcox has started a lot of games and is relatively cheap for his experience level. Even with some of his struggles over the last two years, has he really fallen below guys like Deji Olatoye and Jeff Heath in terms of trust?
“The Devil you know” is a strong factor in roster management. Unless there is a clear upgrade in making a change, teams often favor sticking with the guy they know and that knows their system. J.J. Wilcox may not be great, but he doesn't have to learn a playbook or vocabulary. The further we get into the camp and preseason process, the more valuable that becomes.
We're putting a lot of faith in Anthony Brown and Kavon Frazier, aren't we, to assume they're making the team?
Dallas has cut plenty of sixth-round rookies over the last 10 years. These guys are as much a crap shoot to make the team as some of the undrafted guys. Given the solidity issues along the secondary, should we be so quick to decide that Dallas would rather ride with one of these kids over a veteran?
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This isn't to say that I think J.J. Wilcox will make the team. I could easily see excluding him in my next roster projection. He's certainly on the bubble as much as any player from last year's squad.
Still, I think we've started putting dirt on Wilcox's grave sooner than needed. His salary is a bargain for a starter and reasonable for an experienced backup. Those guys don't get cut easily.