With Earl Thomas and Landon Collins free agents, should Dallas Cowboys fans get their hopes for one of the Pro Bowl safeties to sign in Big D?
The Dallas Cowboys have been linked to Earl Thomas in free agency this offseason ever since the 29-year-old suffered a lower leg fracture in late September. They even, per The Athletic’s Calvin Watkins, met with Thomas’s representation at the NFL Combine.
However, the rampant speculation linking Thomas to the Cowboys may not result in a deal, as Watkins reports the Cowboys have “no interest” in Thomas. Not only that, but Watkins reports that Dallas has “no interest” in Landon Collins, who will leave the rival New York Giants in free agency after David Gettleman quizzically elected to not tag his best defensive player, or the recently released Eric Weddle (previously of the Baltimore Ravens).
Though Thomas, Collins, and Weddle are all legitimately elite safeties, the news that the Cowboys are unwilling to spend top dollar is unsurprising. Dallas isn’t desperate for upgrades on the defensive side of the ball, because they finished sixth in the NFL in points per game allowed. It was a change of pace for the Cowboys organization, as it was the offense, 22nd in the league in scoring, that let them down.
If the Cowboys want to spend – and they’ve been more cautious about spending on big-name players since Stephen Jones has taken charge as Executive Vice President – on the defensive side of the ball, they need to focus on their pass rush. They’ve already hit DeMarcus Lawrence with the franchise tag, but because he’s reportedly unwilling to play under the tag, they must give him a long-term deal before July 15. Since the two sides don’t seem to be close, the Cowboys have to be prepared to spend top dollar on one of their most important players; Lawrence is easily their main source of pass-rushing power.
Meanwhile, Dallas isn’t hurting in the secondary. Xavier Woods showed promise as a rookie and could be a solid starting free safety next to the hard-hitting, explosive Jeff Heath at strong safety. Safeties like Thomas and Weddle aren’t easy to find, but they’re also older, expensive players. Thomas could be a huge help with his ability to play centerfield and allow the Cowboys young corners to be more aggressive, potentially racking up career-highs in interceptions with Thomas patrolling deep, but the price tag is the sticking point here.
Weddle is talented, but he’s 34 and doesn’t provide half the range Thomas does. Collins? He’s not a pure free safety, which is the appeal in signing Thomas. The Cowboys aren’t desperate for safety help, but Thomas’s unique skill-set would have been a strong addition to their promising secondary. Is it worth paying a premium? Dallas’s answer appears to be “no”.
With Woods and Heath at cornerback and Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Anthony Brown as the top three cornerbacks, the Cowboys have an abundance of young talent in their defensive backfield. Their edge rush? Well, it’s just Lawrence, who still needs a long-term contract, and the unproven Taco Charlton at the top of the depth chart.
Dallas is more conscious about where they allocate their financial resources, so their priority would be edge rushers over a safety. And with a great deal of talented second-tier options at the position – such as Lamarcus Joyner, George Iloka and Glover Quin – it would make sense for the Cowboys to wait and see which safeties can be had at a lower price. The big names will get paid, and the others will sit in free agency, looking to get signed on cheaper, prove-it deals that the Cowboys can afford.
Watkins’s report didn’t rule out the Cowboys interest in any safety, and perhaps a veteran, one-year rental at the position would be ideal, especially as Woods strives to come into his own for this defense.