The Dallas Cowboys have mostly sat tight in this year’s free agency period, signing rotational players and re-signing some of their own. But signing Safety Keanu Neal to a one-year deal is a move that could pay off big dividends for the Cowboys next season. However, it’s time to double down at safety.
With Keanu locked up, the Cowboys are still expected to meet with Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker.
Neal’s deal doesn’t close the door to sign any of these two, as they’d be playing different positions. Neal is expected to play as a strong safety or even a weak-side linebacker. Although there are conflicting reports on his specific position, the former Atlanta Falcon will probably fill a variety of roles on defense.
Told the visits next week with Damontae Kazee and Malik Hooker still expected to occur. https://t.co/4OERmFGACc
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 20, 2021
But Dan Quinn is probably not done adding players to his defensive backfield. In fact, he might be aiming to bring in another player he’s familiar with. Kazee played four seasons with the Falcons, leading the NFL in interceptions in 2018. In 2020, he suffered a torn Achilles four games into the season. The Dallas Cowboys would sure appreciate a playmaker like him.
Kazee would fit right into Dan Quinn’s scheme where free safety is one of the most important positions. His athleticism put him in elite company prior to the injury, racking up 106 solo tackles, 10 interceptions, 13 pass deflections, and two forced fumbles between 2018 and 2019. If he returns healthy, Kazee could still be on his way to becoming one of the NFL’s best free safeties.
But that might be a bigger “if” than most would think. While Malik Hooker is seen as the “high-risk” free agent the Cowboys are interested in, Kazee is recovering from a complicated injury that could keep him from being the same. After all, coming all the way back from an Achilles injury isn’t easy. His experience and upside still make him a player worth betting on.
Then there’s Malik Hooker. In a recent article discussing three low-priced free agents the Cowboys could be interested in, I quoted NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s draft profile on Hooker:
“HE HAS THE BEST BALL SKILLS OF ANY SAFETY I’VE EVER EVALUATED IN COLLEGE. […] AGAINST THE RUN, HE IS QUICK TO KEY, READ AND FILL THE ALLEY […] HOOKER HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE ONE OF THE LEAGUE’S BEST SAFETIES VERY EARLY IN HIS NFL CAREER.”
That quote does an excellent job of describing Malik Hooker’s potential. Since then, little has changed except for the fact that he’s missed 28 games in his four-year career. This is the classic high-risk, high-reward free agent the Cowboys could consider signing and it’ll be interesting to see how his visit with the team goes in the next few days.
Signing either of these two free agents would put the Dallas Cowboys in a far better position ahead of the NFL Draft. With Donovan Wilson also on the roster, the front office can focus on other positions or taking the “best player available” instead of reaching for a safety at the wrong spot.
Make no mistake, these signings will not solve the Dallas Cowboys defense. But, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
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