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Could Jeff Heath be the Starting Safety Next to Byron Jones in 2017?

Brian Martin

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Could Jeff Heath Be The Starting Safety Next Byron Jones In 2017?

There are a number of unanswered questions surrounding what the Dallas Cowboys will do with some of their free agents this off-season. One of those questions is who are they going to get to play at safety next season opposite Byron Jones with Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox testing free agency?

Enter #38, everybody's favorite player to hate, Jeff Heath.

I know everybody wants to see the Cowboys re-sign either Barry Church for J.J. Wilcox, but I'm not so sure that the coaching staff won't take a long hard look at increasing Jeff Heath's playing time and making him the starter in 2017.

The Cowboys have been wise about how they spend their money in free agency the past several years, and I expect that to continue this off-season as well.

They have a lot of holes to fill on their roster this off-season, especially on defense. I'm sure they would love to bring Barry Church back if the price is right. But, that's the thing. It always comes down to money, and Church might be able to make more taking his talents to another team.

Of course, everybody mentions that Wilcox might be the more affordable safety of the two to bring back, but can the Cowboys really rely on him to be a full-time starter? I know I don't have the answer to that and I'm not sure they do either.

So, why not roll the dice and see what Jeff Heath can do as a full-time starter. I mean, when given the chance all he does is make plays.

Could Jeff Heath Be The Starting Safety Next Byron Jones In 2017? 1

S Jeff Heath

He may have only finished the 2016 regular season with 23 tackles and one interception, but it's the last impression he made that might make the Cowboys coaching staff seriously consider evaluating him as a starter next season.

You may have forgotten, but Jeff Heath is a big reason why the Dallas Cowboys were able to claw their way back into the game against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

Heath was able to do what very few defensive backs are able to do against Aaron Rodgers, get an interception. Heath did it not once, but twice. Yes, I'm counting the second INT, even though it was overturned because of a bad penalty call by the referees.

He just has a nose for the ball and seems to always be in the right place at the right time. He is definitely underrated as a player by a lot of Dallas Cowboys fans, but not so by his teammates or the coaching staff.

The Cowboys made sure to sign Jeff Heath to a four-year, $7,671,000 contract extension last April in 2016. To be completely honest, I really liked the signing at the time and I like it even more now.

The Cowboys likely extended Heath's contract mostly because of his contributions on special teams, but also because he is a good reserve safety to have in your back pocket to use when needed.

Depending on how things work out between the Cowboys and their free agent safeties, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, we could see Jeff Heath see an extended role on the backend of the defense in 2017. And you know what? I think I would be okay with that.

What do you think of Jeff Heath as a starting safety in 2017?

Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Fatfan

    February 4, 2017 at 5:13 am

    If Church is gone, the job should be Heath’s to lose. But I do like the improvement seen in Wilcox. (no coincidence it came with a db coaching change) Wilcox will fill in well as a back-up, and he brings the wood when it’s time to CLEANLY hit a wr coming across the middle. That may have more value than many fans realize.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      February 4, 2017 at 9:53 am

      I like what I saw from Wilcox this season. I’m curious what kind of money he will be asking for. If the Cowboys do bring him back, I would imagine he would likely be the favorite to start next to Byron Jones. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how much the Cowboys value what they currently have on the roster and what’s on the open market.

  2. Don

    February 4, 2017 at 7:49 am

    I would like to see more playing time for him. If he can stay healthy he’s been an asset. He plays with that Sean Lee type aggressiveness and seems to find the ball. I think we’ll see a vast improvement from the D this coming season. Those guys had a little taste of what might have been and are hungry. It’s still disappointing to me the way our season ended but there’s definitely something to look forward to this year. I still think their approach to the finale with Philly was way too conservative and they should have gone for the jugular in that game and played their ass off and kept their momentum going, but that’s water under the bridge now…!

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      February 4, 2017 at 9:57 am

      Don, the more I think about it the more I like the idea of Jeff Heath getting a shot at playing next to Byron Jones. We’ve seen a small sample size what he can do when given the opportunity, hopefully he can build on that. Of course, this could all change if the Cowboys draft a safety or re-sign Church or Wilcox. Regardless, Heath could see more playing time in 2017.

  3. Michael Moy

    February 7, 2017 at 7:46 am

    Heath can catch the ball, something the other DBs can’t. Wilcox played better than Church. BJ underachieved. All CBs are flawed — nobody knows how to play the ball. Time to put some money on the DL and in CBs before Lee gets old.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      February 7, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Michael, I agree with you for the most part. However, I think there was a big difference when Church was in the lineup then when Wilcox was in the lineup. Church is the better player, but not by much. Wilcox continues to improve, but I don’t know if he’ll be in the Cowboys future plans.

      I also don’t think Byron Jones underachieved. I think everybody had such high expectations for him being the type of ball hawking safety everybody wants. His position flexibility really helped the backend of the Cowboys defense in 2016. He will continue to get better with more playing time.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think the Cowboys will invest a lot of money in free agency. I think they will continue to take the approach of bargain shopping to fill holes and build this team through the draft.

      • Michael Moy

        February 7, 2017 at 11:13 am

        Expectations and flexibility not withstanding, BJ had problems with covering above-avg TEs. He also was no ball hawk. Being OK at several things is not going to do it as an NFL centerfielder, especially coming in as a high #1. Lastly, he did not do the job on the next to last play in that loss to GB. Maybe I am calling him out a bit much, perhaps the DB coach (the DBs just don’t play the ball, one reason why few INTs) and DC need to coach better. Come to think of it, same goes for the LB coach. If Sean had turned and played the underthrown ball from Rogers, he would have had an INT instead of giving up a TD. The defense hustled and overachieved for the most part, so then it’s talent and technique (coaching).

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          February 7, 2017 at 1:08 pm

          This was Byron Jones first year as a full-time safety. He will only continue to get better, but I will admit he did have his ups and downs. But that can be said for anyone in the Cowboys secondary. The lack of pass rush really hurt the Cowboys secondary because there are asked to guard receivers for an extended period of time.

      • Michael Moy

        February 7, 2017 at 11:34 am

        By the way, it’s time to get over the hump instead of keep saying rebuild. We were 13-3 in two out of three seasons. Opportunities are slipping away. BTW, I think JJ is ok with all this because the franchise value keeps going up, but for the fans it’s torture. Building thru the draft as the primary approach is sound, assuming scouting and coaching excellence. However, when you are that close, you have to bring in the last piece(s) (eg, Deion, Haley, Herb Adderley, Lance Alworth — under Johnson and Landry who built thru the draft but was smart and flexible to know what it takes to win SBs when it’s time). Red Head is no coach of the year, too single minded (BTW, he and I are fellow alumni so I do hope he does well, but more importantly I’m a 50-year Cowboys die-hard).

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          February 7, 2017 at 1:05 pm

          I agree that they’re not rebuilding, but I’m not sure that missing piece is available in free agency. The best free agent DE is probably Chandler Jones, but I wouldn’t call him a difference maker. Sure, he would be an upgrade over what the Cowboys currently have on the roster, but I don’t think even take the defense over the top. I think as fans we have to remain patient because the best teams build through the draft. That’s one of the reasons the Patriots are continuously one of the best teams in the league year after year.

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Star Blog

Could Loaded FA Safety Market Drive Down Earl Thomas’ Value?

Brian Martin

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Could Loaded FA Safety Class Drive Down Earl Thomas' Price Tag?

It's no secret the Dallas Cowboys and Earl Thomas share a mutual interest in one another. Thomas has publicly stated his desire to join America's Team and the Cowboys did their darndest to make that happen last offseason. Nothing ever materialized a year ago, but it's looking as if the stars have finally aligned and a union between the two could merely be just weeks away.

Surprisingly enough, the Dallas Cowboys may have dodged a bullet last year when the Seattle Seahawks refused to part ways with their All-Pro safety. Not only would they have had to surrender a high draft pick, but they would've also had to extend Thomas' contract. Fortunately, timing is everything and now the Cowboys might just have to do the latter.

A potential contract between the Cowboys and Thomas is of course what I want to dive in today. I'm not going to get into numbers right now, because it's nearly impossible to project any kind of contract for any safety this offseason, especially for the former Seahawk, Earl Thomas.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Right now, it's a little difficult to know who might have the advantage in contract negotiations, Earl Thomas or the Dallas Cowboys. A lot of times the one that has the leverage, however slight, is the one that gets the better of the deal. As surprising as it may be, the Cowboys might just have the advantage here and I'll tell you why.

First off, this year's market for free agent safeties is pretty stacked with starting caliber players. See below:

  • Earl Thomas
  • Landon Collins
  • Lamarcus Joyner
  • Tyrann Mathieu
  • Adrian Amos
  • Clayton Geathers
  • Ha-Ha Clinton Dix
  • Glover Quinn
  • Tre Boston
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • George Iloka
  • Jimmie Ward
  • Adrian Phillips

Earl Thomas is obviously the headliner here amongst the free agent safeties, but having so many starting caliber players available could drive down Thomas' market value just a bit. This is especially true when you take into consideration the market for FA safeties just a year ago. It was almost a complete standstill last year, with only Kurt Coleman signing a three-year $16.5 million deal with the New Orleans Saints. Not even the "Honey Badger" Tyrann Mathieu could get more than a one-year deal.

With all of these safeties available in free agency, we could be looking at another stingy market. This of course could be good or bad news for the Dallas Cowboys, especially as it pertains to Earl Thomas. Since he is the top FA safety available, everything could once again be at a standstill until he is signed.

Earl Thomas

Free Agent FS Earl Thomas (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Of course, we all know this will ultimately come down to determining Earl Thomas' market value. There is no denying he is still arguably the best free safety in the game today, but there are concerns about his age (30) and the two lower leg injuries he's sustained in the past three years.

Even with the loaded free agent market of starting caliber safeties and Thomas' age and recent injury history, he's still likely to receive a contract that earns him $10 million annually, give or take. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets another four-year deal worth $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed, with a $9.5 million signing bonus like he signed with the Seahawks back in 2014.

The Cowboys of course would probably find a four-year $40 million deal for Earl Thomas acceptable. They would more than likely frontload the contract with a lot of protection in the details. They have the cap space to make this happen and still be able to sign their own, so money shouldn't be a problem.

Now, whether or not Thomas' market value may dip a little due to all of the above mentioned reasons will be something we will have to wait and find out. Regardless, I'd be a little shocked if Earl Thomas doesn't finish his career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Do you think Earl Thomas' market value will take a little hit this offseason?



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Star Blog

Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

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Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors

What a difference a receiver makes, right? As Dallas fans, we know the impact of a player who can shake coverage, get open, and catch the ball. How was the season going before the Cowboys pulled the trigger for Amari Cooper in the deal with the Raiders? Cooper proved to be the lightning rod and a turning point in a season that was growing increasingly dismal. Dak Prescott and Cooper went together like peanut butter and jelly, while the Cowboys stormed to a division title and a postseason berth.

Now, imagine all of that times two… maybe even two and a half if Antonio Brown could be had from the Steelers. Scary right? We understand there’s only one ball to go around but that didn’t stop Kevin Durant from joining the Warriors, did it?

As of this writing, the best online sportsbooks like Intertops, are dealing Dallas as the seventh of 16 choices to win the NFC championship at odds of 12-1. Imagine how those odds would shrink if Brown wore a Cowboys uniform next season, giving Prescott the luxury of not one upper echelon wideout but that plus an elite receiver. Hut, hut, hut and a few clouds of smoke later the Cowboys would be moving the chains or celebrating in the endzone.

Brown and Cooper would be a devastating combination with Ezekiel Elliott coming out of the backfield. Brown was made for Dallas, it gives him an even grander stage than the one he shared with Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that the 'Boys haven’t won a Super Bowl since Barry Switzer was roaming the sidelines in the mid-90s, America’s Team still resides in Dallas. But we need a game-changer and Brown is just such an athlete. But what do we give in return and will that cost be worth whatever productive years Brown has left after this one? Let’s not forget that the mercurial Miami native will be 31 when the season begins and men who make a living with their legs don’t get better at that age. But Brown is so good and so unique that, even if he drops half a click, he's still amongst the best in the game.

That level of talent is hard to replicate and it could be the missing piece which allows Dallas to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender next season and the year after.

However, up to this point, we’ve been very good at dreaming of a Brown to Dallas trade but haven’t quite worked out the details. It takes two to tango and if we expect to get the Steelers’ attention we need to give them something valuable in return. Dallas surrendered their first-round pick (27th) this season when they traded for Cooper so that’s no longer an asset.

Pittsburgh would be vying for a first-round pick (and likely more) for Brown's services but some have speculated Dallas would consider dealing rookie-standout Leighton Vander Esch.

Wait... what? We know, you’re clutching your pearls, and the words are stuck in your gasp. We get it. The kid was a home run this past season, leading the Dallas defense in tackles and earning a Pro Bowl invitation in his inaugural NFL season. But this would be a Faustian deal.

The Cowboys give up a player who is poised to be a stud for years to come for a playmaker in Brown that could render a Super Bowl in the immediate future. Brown's expiration date will surely turn his milk sour sooner rather than later, but in the here and now, Antonio Brown could be the bell cow who leads the Cowboys to the promised land before he’s put out to pasture.

Just something to think about...



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Star Blog

2018 In Review: CB Anthony Brown Bounces Back

Kevin Brady

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Anthony Brown's Resurgence A Great Sign for Cowboys Defense
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

To say it's been an up-and-down start to the career of young cornerback Anthony Brown would be an understatement.

As a sixth round pick in 2016, everything Brown contributed during his rookie season was a plus. Due to injury he was asked to step into a greater role as the season went on, and he performed well enough to make the front office comfortable allowing multiple veterans to walk for nothing in free agency the following Spring. Brown looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the league, and when Dallas brought in Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis during the next draft, the young secondary seemed set.

Then 2017 happened. And Anthony Brown struggled. Really struggled.

These struggles, coupled with the emergence of both Lewis and Awuzie during their own rookie seasons, made Brown's status heading into 2018 rather uncertain. Some wondered if they would trade him for a day three pick, others thought Brown could even end up being cut. Jourdan Lewis and Anthony Brown were slated to compete for the nickel cornerback job in training camp, and as it turned out, all Brown needed was that one extra chance to compete.

Brown won the job outright during the preseason, and began 2018 as the starting nickel. A fan favorite, most thought Lewis would reclaim his rightful spot on the depth chart sooner or later, but Anthony Brown's play (and Kris Richard's preferences) kept Lewis on the bench for much of the season.

Simply put, Anthony Brown balled in 2018, and was the Cowboys' second best corner for most of the year. By the end of the season Chidobe Awuzie had regained form, but Brown and Byron Jones were the most consistently reliable corners on the roster all of 2018.

Brown tallied 44 tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception in 2018, and finished third on the team in pass breakups with 8. As the slot corner Brown had an excellent season, especially for a former sixth round pick.

Now he enters a contract year, and with the Cowboys having so many guys to pay over the next two offseasons, he could find himself as an unrestricted free agent in 2020. And if he can keep up his play from last year moving forward, he could be in for a nice payday that Spring.



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