The Cowboys defense is coming off of a historically bad season. The Cowboys secondary was by far the biggest culprit for a lot of their angst. One of the capable veterans they did have, Xavier Woods, left the team during free agency this offseason. They needed to invest heavily in this position group and Jerry Jones and Co. have done that pretty well.
There was a lot of speculation that Dallas would spend the 10th overall pick on a cornerback, but with Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II already off the board, it made the choice of Micah Parsons much simpler. Instead, Dallas addressed the secondary in round two by drafting Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph. Joseph is now teamed up with second-year corner Trevon Diggs, who put together an impressive rookie campaign given the struggles of the team around him.Embed from Getty Images
New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, played a role in the free agent signings of Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal to help bolster the safety spot, although it’s possible that Neal helps out at weak-side linebacker too. As it currently stands, the starting safeties would then be Kazee and Donovan Wilson with the top three corners of Diggs, Joseph, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis.
The Cowboys secondary still could greatly benefit from one or two mast minute veteran free agent signings. They have an estimated $5M in cap space remaining as per Spotrac, so it might be likely that they’ll need to re-work a contract to get any of these deals done.
1. Brian Poole
The process of rebuilding the Falcons old secondary in Dallas would now be complete, as yet another former player from Dan Quinn’s reign in Atlanta would be brought in. Brian Poole started 7 games for the Jets last season and managed two interceptions. He finished with a PFF of 77.1 in 2020, on the back of a 79 PFF in 2019. He would give Dallas added depth at slot corner and his connection with Quinn, Neal, and Kazee should yield dividends immediately.
2. Steven Nelson
Another slot corner who despite solid production, still finds himself without a team and a contract. The past three seasons saw Steven Nelson finish with PFF ratings of 73.8, 80.5, and finally a bit of a drop off to 67.1 in 2020. The Cowboys secondary could use his assistance with slot matchups like Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton.
3. Nickell Robey-Coleman
A final slot corner who is somehow unsigned despite proven production for numerous years. The former Eagle walked into a complete defensive collapse last season, so I would not put too much take into his struggles in 2020. The three seasons before that, Nickell Robey-Coleman finished with a PFF of 74 or higher, including two seasons over 80.
He’s a highly productive nickel and slot corner who would provide this secondary with a tool to help combat a Giants offense who looks poised to try to create mismatch opportunities using different combinations of Evan Engram, Slayton, Toney, Kenny Golladay, John Ross, and Sterling Shepard. The Cowboys secondary will need to be ready for that, which means possessing versatile talent.
4. Jeff HeathEmbed from Getty Images
The return of Jeff Heath to this secondary would be a fan favorite and would help to reestablish a physical veteran presence to this Cowboys secondary. Heath put up one of his best years of his career for the Raiders in 2020, in a more reserved capacity. He played in 13 games, but only started in 5 and finished with a PFF rating of 72.8. He had three interceptions, which tied his career high in 2017.
Neal and Kazee might be substantial additions to this Cowboys secondary, but they were available and cheap for a reason…constant history of injuries. Dallas can’t head in to the 2021 season naively believing that both will remain healthy, especially given the fact that the season is now 17 games.