The Dallas Cowboys have gone all in at safety as they’ve signed three veterans over the past few days. By signing three veterans, the Cowboys clearly decided to upgrade the position well before the 2021 NFL Draft next month. And although these signings – all of them featuring one-year deals – don’t solve the team’s woes at the position in the long-term, they’re a step in the right direction.
The Cowboys have added strong safety Keanu Neal to play in a hybrid role which will also involve him as a linebacker. In fact, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said in a press conference on Thursday that Neal would “start with the linebackers.” But even still, Neal is expected to play both positions in different packages.
Another piece added to the #Cowboys defense: They are signing FA S Damontae Kazee after his visit yesterday, per @AgentButler1 of agency1amg. The former #Falcons starter is back with Dan Quinn, this time in Dallas.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 26, 2021
Neal isn’t the only former Atlanta Falcon the Cowboys landed. Dan Quinn will also be reuniting with free safety Damontae Kazee. Coming off from an Achilles injury, Kazee expects to get back to making big plays on defense. Between 2018 and 2019, he was tied for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions.
Jayron Kearse will also join the Dallas Cowboys, although he’s not likely to have a role as important as Neal and Kazee. But that doesn’t mean Kearse isn’t a good addition. He can contribute to special teams and provides depth at the position. Certainly, Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel has earned the right to bring in special teamers after leading the Cowboys to the 7th spot in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings.
Usually, it’d be a surprise to see the Dallas Cowboys invest in three safety free agents. But considering Dan Quinn is now a member of this coaching staff, it makes plenty of sense. Quinn’s scheme, featuring plenty of Cover 1 and Cover 3 defenses, requires good safeties. During his time as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator and as the Falcons’ head coach, he’s had studs like Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Neal himself.
In a season in which he isn’t likely to have a strong cornerback room, betting for multiple safeties makes a lot of sense.
With these free agency signings, the Cowboys have some solid answers in their defensive backfield. After a breakout season in 2020, Donovan Wilson will likely see the playing field a lot as well. Having played both as a free safety and a box safety, he’ll likely earn an important role on defense right away.
But that doesn’t mean the Dallas Cowboys shouldn’t look for another safety in the NFL Draft. After all, all of these signings are via one-year deals. In reality, the Cowboys are still looking for long-term answers. Day 2 of the Draft will feature plenty of possibilities, including UCF’s Richie Grant. Fortunately for the Cowboys, though, if they end up drafting a safety it won’t be because of desperate need. Instead, they can focus on taking the best player available.
Featured Image Via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports