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Helman: Let The Youth Handle The Safety Situation

Posted Mar 31, 2014


IRVING, Texas – It’s a long-standing joke on this website, as well as plenty of others, that the availability of any well-known player is going to draw fan interest – regardless of plausibility.

From Richard Seymour and Ed Reed last season to DeSean Jackson just this past weekend, if a recognizable name hits the market, someone will want the Cowboys to sign him. People rarely take the depth chart or the salary cap, among other things, into consideration when they ask these questions.

Every now and then, though, a situation arises that actually seems to fit. That was the case Monday afternoon when the news hit that Houston had parted ways with veteran safety Danieal Manning.

Manning, a perennial starter since 2006, was coming off a six-game season that was shortened by a broken clavicle. He was slated to make $4.5 million in the last season of his contract with the Texans, which was apparently more than they were willing to pay. Manning declined to take a pay cut, and the Texans – who signed free agent Chris Clemons on Saturday – decided to release him.

This is where the Cowboys questions come into play, but they actually seem to fit in this case. Before he signed with Houston in 2011, Manning was an All-Pro safety in Chicago and played under Rod Marinelli. Manning played one season under Marinelli’s coaching in 2010, finishing with 72 tackles and a pick for the Bears.

He’d also be relatively affordable. Manning is 31 and he’s coming off an injury that forced him out of 10 games last year. He might be able to find a better deal than what the Texans were willing to offer him on the open market, but he’s certainly not going to break the bank. Money is always an issue worth remembering when considering the Cowboys’ famous cap issues.  

If sentimentality is your bag, Manning has some of that going for him, too. He’s a native of Corsicana, Texas, which isn’t quite part of the Metroplex but is a mere 53 minutes away. It’s hardly a stretch to suggest Manning might want to finish up his impressive career near his hometown.

So, yeah, it’s a move that would make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. The Cowboys have famously been hunting for a productive safety for years, and the disappointing rookie campaigns of Jeff Heath and J.J. Wilcox left a bad taste in a lot of fans’ mouths.

Manning could at the very least provide some depth to the position, or he could crank out another few years of high level safety play while the youngsters learn the ropes.

Now, having said all of that, I don’t think it’s a signing the Cowboys need to make. We’ve seen that plan before, most recently in the addition of Will Allen during free agency last spring. It didn’t work out, and Allen was eventually replaced by the rookies he was intended to lead.

Granted, Manning is a much more established and successful starter than Allen. Manning has appeared in 112 games, starting 91. He’s started 10 or more games in six of his eight pro seasons.

That’s not really the point, though. Bringing in another veteran just seems like it’d slow whatever progress the young safeties – particularly Wilcox – are going to make. The Cowboys invested a pretty high draft pick in the Georgia Southern standout. His rookie season wasn’t amazing by any means, but he showed flashes of playmaking ability.

It’s easy to think back to his struggles, and Heath’s, and want to look elsewhere, but a stopgap veteran who will play a season, maybe two, doesn’t seem like the answer. You might as well find out what you’ve got in your youth movement.

Signing a low-cost free agent or drafting a safety might be a good idea if you want to foster competition. But for the longterm future of the defense, you might as well see what you’ve got.

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