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Is It Time To Find A Safety Of The Future?


(Editor's Note: With the NFL Draft fast approaching, is taking a comprehensive look at each position on the roster: free agency additions, departures, and what the draft might hold. Today, the series continues with safety.)

Need Meter (1 lowest, 5 highest): 4

Depth Check: After years of frustration, Cowboys fans saw their prayers answered this spring. With the arrival of a new coaching staff, the front office finally invested in a proven safety by signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.

Clinton-Dix is not the all-world game changer that fans would prefer, but he is a six-year starter and a one-time Pro Bowler – which is more than the Cowboys have had at the position in a long while. The front office also re-signed Darian Thompson, giving them a solid third option behind the duo of Clinton-Dix and Xavier Woods. Donovan Wilson, the sixth-round pick from last year who impressed in training camp, rounds out the depth chart.

For the time being, this is about as good as the safety spot has looked in several years. The problem is that there isn't much long-term stability. Clinton-Dix signed on for just one year, while Woods is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie deal. Thompson and Wilson have multiple years remaining, but neither is the preferred option.

The current players are good enough for 2020, but it might be wise to invest at the position – not just to improve the talent level, but to give the situation a clearer long-term outlook.

Prospect Preview: Two players stand above the rest in this year's safety class, and their names are probably familiar by now: Alabama's Xavier McKinney and LSU's Grant Delpit.

Both of them displayed playmaking ability and amazing versatility in college, ranging between free safety, playing down in the box and even moving into the slot. McKinney gets knocked for his consistency in coverage, while there have been widespread criticisms of Delpit's tackling ability. Neither player is likely to be the Cowboys' top priority at pick No. 17, but depending on the situation neither would be a surprise selection.

Behind them, Minnesota's Antoine Winfield and Cal's Ashtyn Davis figure to be this year's sleepers. Winfield gets overlooked for his small stature (5'9, 203), but he arguably has the best ball skills of any safety in this class. Davis was, at one time, a walk-on for the Golden Bears, and elevated himself to become a likely top 100 draft pick.

Memorable Pick: In an era where safeties are expected to play a little bit of everything, it's fun to remember that Darren Woodson did that for the Cowboys almost 30 years ago.

The Cowboys drafted Woodson in the second round, No. 37 overall, back in 1992 and used him mainly as their nickel back during his rookie season. Primarily a linebacker in college, Woodson was a nickel and special teams ace for the Cowboys' first of three championships. He moved into a starting safety role during his second season and thrived.

Over 12 years with the Cowboys, Woodson was a five-time Pro Bowler, a three-time All-Pro – and of course a three-time Super Bowl winner. His mark of 1,350 tackles is still the best in Cowboys' history.

For his efforts, Woodson was inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor in 2015. He has been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on several occasions, but – as of yet – has not been voted in.

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