For the last few weeks I’ve been doing a position-by-position breakdown of the Dallas Cowboys roster heading into 2020 training camp. I was planning to wrap that up on Saturday with the safeties, but then the Earl Thomas news threw everything into chaos.
Two days later and the situation is murkier than ever. Not only is Thomas now a free agent and the Cowboys being called a potential suitor, but a surprising shift has happened has happened with players already on Dallas roster.
Cowboys signed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in March to be their starting safety. Based on camp so far, that won’t be the case. Darian Thompson more impressive so far. This competition will continue to unfold. Clinton-Dix signed a one-year contract with $2.25M fully guaranteed.
Between his former draft status, a past Pro Bowl trip, and his relationship with Mike McCarthy from Green Bay, Clinton-Dix felt like a safe bet to be a starter in 2020. But his fall from 1st-round grace appears to be continuing if Thompson is even close to challenging for the job.
That’s not to say Darian is a scrub. He was a 3rd-round pick by the Giants in 2016 who quickly earned a starting job but then struggled with injuries. He eventually found his way to the Cowboys during the 2018 season as a reclamation project and appears to be doing just that.
Of course, neither will probably be a starter if Earl Thomas ends up coming to Dallas. We should see Thomas and Xavier Woods atop the depth chart at that point.
But you see why previewing this position right now would be a farce; it could all change by later this afternoon. Thomas now looms over everyone and until he is confirmed to either be with Dallas or one of the 30 other possibilities, forecasting anything about the Cowboys safeties right now is a fool’s errand.
Even assuming that Thomas and Woods would be the starting duo isn’t certain. Both are on the small side and Dallas might prefer a bigger player like Darian Thompson (6’2″ and 211 lbs.) to be in the mix for playing close to the line of scrimmage.
What we do know right now is that things are in definitely in flux, and unfortunately we’re left with more questions than answers.
Does Thompson challenging for a starting role mean he’s making step forward in his career, or is it more an indictment of where Clinton-Dix is at this point in a declining career?
Does Dallas’ new scheme under Mike Nolan allow for them to play two smaller, free-safety types like Earl Thomas and Xavier Woods together? Or would Thomas’ arrival actually cut into Xavier’s playing time?
Are the Cowboys even that interested in Thomas after the last two years, or has his increased age and personal red flags finally moved him to the edges of their radar?
Some of those answers should come within the next day or two. We’ll wait for clarity and then see what Dallas actually has at safety when the dust settles.