The NFC East position group outlook is coming to a close. Each and every position group in the NFC East has been discussed so far, besides one, the safeties. Sure, safeties and cornerbacks are normally combined into one "grouping" called the secondary, but I decided to split them up and discuss them separately.
Without any more delay, let's take a look at the free and strong safeties this division has to offer.
Cowboys safety play over the past few seasons has been inconsistent, to say the least.
Barry Church and JJ Wilcox have become notorious for their poor tackling angles and coverage breakdowns, even though I would argue that it hasn't been all bad.
I still think Church has a lot to offer this defense, even if it is from more of a leadership role than anything else. No, he isn't an elite NFL safety, but he has been the stronger of the starting duo since 2014.
Cowboys faithful are excited about this group due to the emergence of now second year player Byron Jones.
Jones spent most of his rookie year at safety, but was forced to bounce around to cornerback at times as well. He will finally have some stability in his week-to-week life and will be the Cowboys' starting free safety week one.
And he is going to be great, make no mistake about it.
Fan-favorite Jeff Heath also returns after signing a four year deal this offseason, and will provide solid special teams play, as he did a year ago. When called on to play safety last year, he actually led the Cowboys in interceptions with two.
Yeah, that's all it took to lead the team, two.
The Cowboys added another safety during the draft when they selected Central Michigan Chippewas' Kavon Frazier in the sixth round.
The Eagles certainly made the biggest splash at the safety position this offseason by signing safety Rodney McLeod to a five year deal worth $37 million.
The former Rams safety finished the 2015 season with 81 tackles, 5 pass deflections, and one interception. At only 26 years old, he is a solid addition and a clear upgrade for the Eagles.
Adding McLeod allows the Eagles to give Malcolm Jenkins some help. Jenkins was the best safety in the division last season, finishing with 2 interceptions and 104 tackles.
Together, this could be a dangerous combination for opposing offenses to try to test.
New York Giants
The Giants traded up in the 2015 NFL draft in hopes of securing a long-term answer at safety in Alabama's Landon Collins.
Collins' rookie year can best be described as a roller coaster, with ups and downs and twists and turns, leaving most evaluators to just chalk up the inconsistencies to it being just his first professional season.
His final numbers did look solid, with over 100 tackles and an interception, but the Giants have to be hoping for more consistency out of Collins in 2016.
Playing alongside Collins will most likely be Cooper Taylor, who tallied just 11 tackles in very limited time last season. That is, of course, if rookie Darian Thompson is unable to grab the reigns and earn himself a starting position. My money is on Thompson to start alongside Collins for much of 2016.
Similar to the New York Giants, Washington goes into training camp with a ton of questions surrounding their safety positions. Veteran DeAngelo Hall will likely be one of the starters, as he has transitioned from cornerback to safety nicely with age.
The question then becomes, who's next?
Will Blackmon and Duke Ihenacho are the other veterans who could possibly start at safety in 2016. Blackmon won't be needed as a cornerback, and if he can transition smoothly to the starting spot, he may very well be the week one answer.
USC rookie Su'a Cravens may also get a shot to prove himself as a safety this summer.
Who's the best?
In my mind, this group was clearly a two-team race.
The Redskins and the Giants have way too many question marks and inconsistencies at safety for me to even consider them here. That leaves the Eagles and the Cowboys.
Malcolm Jenkins was the best safety in the NFC East in 2015, so he would clearly give the Eagles some type of advantage over the Cowboys' group.
Dallas, however, has my favorite new full-time starter in the division in Byron Jones. And, to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised at all if we consider Jones the best safety in the NFC East going into 2017.
Rodney McLeod is good, not great. Barry Church is good, not great.
The Cowboys didn't force enough turnovers in 2015, but that doesn't mean Jones and company won't improve in this department come 2016.
It is a really close call, but I have to give the edge to the Eagles.
I hate that I have to do it, but I think McLeod and Jenkins form the best starting tandem on paper at this time. Things certainly can and will change as we move further along this season.
Report: Raiders Sign Former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber
A Free Agency period filled with departures continued for the Dallas Cowboys today, as the Oakland Raiders have reportedly signed the now-former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber.
The Raiders have signed LB Kyle Wilber: https://t.co/TaC6cqjval
Wilber has been with the Cowboys since 2012, and has played in all 16 games four of the past five seasons. Most of his time has come on special teams, but he did provide solid linebacker depth for the Cowboys since joining the team.
Dallas has now lost both Wilber and Anthony Hitchens, depleting their linebacker depth even further over the last couple weeks.
The Raiders have now signed two key special teams contributors for the Cowboys in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber this offseason. Hopefully Dallas can replace these types of "replacement level" players throughout the rest of the offseason, especially during the NFL Draft.
Report: Cowboys Officially Release CB Orlando Scandrick
After requesting his release from the team just a few days ago, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick has gotten his wish. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Scandrick has officially been cut by the Dallas Cowboys.
I'm told the #Cowboys have informed CB Orlando Scandrick he will be released, per source.
This move will reportedly save the Cowboys roughly $1.4M against the salary cap, as we hope they finally look to make some moves during the Free Agency period.
Scandrick's release comes after an offseason in which the Cowboys totally overhauled the back end of their defense, specifically their cornerbacks. With the emergence of young, promising players such as Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, and the health issues of the aging Scandrick, the move makes a lot of sense.
In fact, after the Cowboys drafted Awuzie in the second round of last year's draft it was rumored the Cowboys were looking to move Scandrick for extra draft picks. Instead, one year later, they have cut him to save some cap room.
Orlando Scandrick should have a market to find a new team elsewhere, but his time in Dallas has now come to a close.
Dallas Cowboys Have Missing Piece at Offensive Line
There are a lot of positions being talked about right now for the Dallas Cowboys. Upgrades are needed at several spots, but one critical position needs even more than that. Left guard is completely unmanned, and that could be a big problem for the 2018 offensive line if it's not addressed soon.
Last year's starter, Jonathan Cooper, is currently an unrestricted free agent. So are backups Joe Looney and Byron Bell.
Right now, Chaz Green is the only other non-starter under contract who has any NFL experience at left guard. Nobody wants to see him on the field next year.
Dez Bryant may be a big topic but at least he's under contract. The same goes for safety, where we at least have options to turn to if free agency or the draft don't yield anything.
Left guard, though? The cupboard is bare.
One option could be to move La'el Collins back to guard, where many feel he has the most upside, and then find a new right tackle. But that would be changing two positions to fill one hole, and Collins was playing well at tackle by the end of the year.
And obviously, we don't want to see Chaz Green playing that spot either. Or any spot. Ever.
No, at this point it makes sense for Dallas to leave Collins where he is and either sign or draft a starting LG. The question is how much do they want to invest?
The Cowboys are already shelling out big bucks to Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. Even Collins counts about $7 million against the cap. They have three first-round picks already tied up in the offensive line.
Some thought veteran free agent Josh Sitton would be a nice option, but he got picked up by the Dolphins today for about $8-9 million per year. That's more than Dallas can afford given their limited cap space and other needs.
No, the LG in 2018 is going to need to be a salary cap bargain. That means either re-signing Jonathan Cooper or Joe Looney on the cheap, or perhaps paying a rookie salary to a high draft pick.
Last year's 19th overall pick, O.J. Howard, counted just $2 million against the Bucs' salary cap in 2017.
There are some older veterans who could be cheap band-aid options, such as Matt Slauson or Evan Smith. But you don't get very far down some lists of available guards before you see Jonathan Cooper's name, and continuity is always a plus.
The point here is don't expect any big move, even with the enormity of the need. Dallas will likely reach an agreement with Cooper after he's tested the free agent waters a bit, assuming nobody else scoops him up.
If not, the need at left guard will become increasingly dire the further we get into the offseason.
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