FRISCO, Texas – A key piece of the Cowboys' 2021 defense is remaining in place for 2022 and beyond.
With one week of free agency in the books, the Cowboys agreed to terms on a new deal for Jayron Kearse on Monday. The new contract is reportedly for two years and $10 million, with the ability for the veteran safety to earn as much as $11 million.
It's quite the come-up for Kearse, who exploded onto the scene to enjoy a career year under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's guidance last season. Many considered Kearse an afterthought when he signed last spring on a deal worth roughly $1.1 million, with a mere $137,000 in guarantees. At the time, he was mainly a special teamer who had made just 12 career starts in five years.
Fast forward a year, and Kearse is returning to the roster as one of the most crucial pieces of this defense. Having made the final roster out of training camp, Kearse grabbed a starting job in Week 2 and ran with it. He played 88% of the defensive snaps, leading the team with 101 tackles, as well as 10 pass breakups, two interceptions and seven tackles for loss to go along with that.
Kearse also took over as the Cowboys' defensive play caller during the middle of the season, freeing up Micah Parsons to handle a more versatile role.
Asked about it earlier this offseason, Kearse said he never lacked for confidence he could play that type of role, he was merely searching for an opportunity.
"If you turn the tape on, with the opportunities I did have, I played good football," he said in February. "But it was never a week in, week out thing where it was constantly Jayron Kearse on the field. It was just the fact that I was able to get that opportunity every week."
With a new contract in place – not to mention Quinn positioned for another year as defensive coordinator – there figure to be plenty more opportunities in Kearse's future.