IRVING, Texas – It was already looking likely that Jeff Heath had a short-term future with the Cowboys, but the front office opted to make that a long-term future on Wednesday.
Roughly one week ahead of the deadline for Heath to sign his one-year tender, the Cowboys signed the fourth-year safety to a four-year contract extension. The details of the deal haven't yet been revealed, but it only goes to show the Cowboys' high opinion of Heath as one of their core special teamers and a valuable piece of defensive depth.
Heath signed on as an undrafted free agent out of Saginaw Valley State in 2013 and has appeared in 48 of 50 possible games in the time since. He experienced a steep learning curve as a rookie, as injuries forced him into a starting role at safety in nine games.
Since then, he has blossomed into one of the Cowboys' top special teamers. He finished fourth on the team in special teams tackles in 2014 with eight, and in 2015 his nine special teams tackles led the club. He's one of just a handful of players who feature prominently on all of the Cowboys' special teams units.
The Lake Orion, Mich., native has also proven his worth as a piece of depth in the defensive secondary. In the time since his tough rookie season, Heath has made 45 total tackles on defense and featured regularly at safety behind the trio of Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox and Byron Jones.
In 2015, his two interceptions against Tampa Bay were enough to lead the team, as the defense finished with just eight picks on the year.
The extension guarantees that another of the Cowboys' free agents will rejoin the roster in 2016. They extended a one-year tender to him back at the start of free agency, but he retained the ability to sign with other NFL clubs prior to next week's deadline. The Cowboys have now retained eight free agents from last year's team.
The club's other restricted free agent, Ron Leary, has yet to sign his tender.