(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on April 25-27, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, the Cowboys' needs at each, which players might be targeted with their six picks and some interesting draft nuggets. Part 2 features the safety position.)
With Cowboys vice president and director of player personnel Stephen Jones having called safety one of the most important positions to improve back in late February, it's unlikely those sentiments have changed much with the addition of veteran Will Allen.
Heading into the draft, look for safety to continue to be a high priority. Allen is considered a career backup with just 33 starts in nine pro seasons. While he could provide some stability in some areas, it remains clear the Cowboys are hopeful both Barry Church (torn Achilles) and Matt Johnson (injuries to both hamstrings in 2012) can return to full strength. [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys re-signed Danny McCray as a restricted free agent, but it's likely McCray will be utilized more as a special teams player. Another long shot to make the squad is Micah Pellerin, who was signed from the practice squad at the end of the year.
With the Cowboys signing Allen, it's likely they don't have much interest in signing another veteran safety, especially before the draft. The focus now shifts to the college ranks with the club possibly making a play for a younger addition.
But if that doesn't happen in the early rounds and the jury remains out at safety, the Cowboys could dip back into the free-agent pool, possibly for an aging veteran with experience such as Charles Woodson or Ronde Barber. Also still on the market is Gerald Sensabaugh, who was released by the Cowboys last month to get under the salary cap. Other free-agent safeties yet to sign include Kerry Rhodes and Quintin Mikell.
The Cowboys have been looking for a top-notch safety ever since Darren Woodson retired at the end of the 2004 season. That takes us back 21 years ago when the team decided this hard-hitting, speedy linebacker from Arizona State could convert to a defensive back in the NFL. Not only could Woodson play the safety position, but he covered the slot – something we see mostly from quick-footed cornerbacks in today's pass-happy game.
Woodson, a second-round pick in 1992, won two Super Bowls in his first two years in the NFL and eventually became a defensive leader for the Cowboys, earning five Pro Bowl selections. He is currently the team's all-time leading tackler with 1,350.
The top safety on most draft boards these days is Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, who has the size (6-1, 215) teams are looking for at safety, with solid coverage skills combined with surefire tackling ability.
But behind Vaccaro are other talented safeties such as Florida's Matt Elam, Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International and LSU's Eric Reid. Bryan Broaddus has more on a few safety prospects that will likely make it past the first round.