First, the Cowboys lost their best cornerback. Then their most productive pass rusher from last year.Now, the Cowboys are losing their best defensive tackle and most experienced safety as well.
Free agency hasn't even started yet but the 2019 defensive unit has already been stripped of several key players, including both Maliek Collins and Jeff Heath, who have now agreed to join the Raiders.
Both Collins and Heath will reunite with former assistants as well. Collins joins a defensive line coached by Rod Marinelli and Heath will likely have a strong role on special teams, coached by Rich Bisaccia. Heath, who reportedly agreed to a two-deal that could pay him up to $8 million, is also expected to compete for a starting safety position.
Heath had an impressive career rise with the Cowboys. He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Saginaw Valley State in 2013. He earned his playing time as a productive leader of the special teams and eventually became the team's starting free safety in 2017. He totaled 346 tackles and eight interceptions over his career with the Cowboys.
Together, the Cowboys have now lost four defensive players in free agency along with Byron Jones (Miami) and Robert Quinn (Chicago). The team also lost key slot receiver Randall Cobb to Houston.Collins, a third-round pick in 2016, was a key piece to that draft class but was always overshadowed by the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Jaylon Smith.
Collins established himself as a starter among a group of veteran defensive tackles by Week 3 of his rookie season. Last season, Collins started all 16 games for the Cowboys and was third on the team in quarterback hurries behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn, who were more positioned for the statistic at defensive end. Collins has suffered injuries to his foot and knee, but still managed to miss only four games in four years. Over his career, Collins has started 55 games, and he's recorded 82 tackles and 14.5 sacks.
Last season, the Raiders were the 24th ranked defense in the NFL in terms of points allowed.