FRISCO, Texas – One of the biggest whispers of training camp can now be stated plainly.
The Cowboys released veteran safety Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix on Thursday afternoon, confirming the thought that the veteran was not the shoo-in for a starting safety job that many initially thought he was.
Clinton-Dix signed with the Cowboys in April, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.75 million, with $2.25 million in guarantees. The decision to release him should free up $1.5 million in cap space, though.
It's rare to see such a pricey player released before the start of the season, but it's not unprecedented. In 2015, the Cowboys guaranteed $2 million to veteran linebacker Jasper Brinkley, before ultimately releasing him during roster cuts.
On the surface, the move is somewhat surprising. Clinton-Dix was easily the most experienced safety on the Cowboys' roster, having played six seasons in the league with 16 career interceptions and one Pro Bowl appearance. Given that level of expertise, it was widely assumed he'd pair with Xavier Woods to form the Cowboys' starting safety duo.
That didn't play out at training camp, though. It's worth noting that the Cowboys mixed and match their personnel frequently throughout these three weeks of practice. But, at the same time, Clinton-Dix seemed to stop getting reps with the rest of the team's starters near the midway point of camp, as Darian Thompson frequently moved into the position across from Woods.
Speaking of Thompson, this decision seems to benefit the veteran more than anyone else. It's entirely possible the Cowboys could add outside help, and the release of Clinton-Dix is bound to reignite the conversation about Earl Thomas, who has been repeatedly linked to the Cowboys for nearly three years – and who is still an available free agent.
If that doesn't happen, though, Thompson is the only other safety on the Cowboys' roster with regular starting experience. Originally a third-round draft pick by the New York Giants, he started 17 games during his two seasons in New Jersey. He also made four starts for the Cowboys last season to help offset injuries at the position.
Behind the duo of Woods and Thompson, the Cowboys also have veteran defensive back Darryl Worley, who has played safety at various times in his career – including during this training camp. There's also second-year veteran Donovan Wilson, who has received plenty of opportunities in practice. Rookie Reggie Robinson has also splitbetween safety and cornerback during his first training camp, and undrafted free agent Luther Kirk rounds out the depth chart.
The depth chart could change in the coming days, as the Cowboys seek to fine tune their roster before the regular season kicks into gear. For the time being, the decision to release Clinton-Dix only emphasizes the fact that safety is one of their problem spots – which should sound familiar by now.