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Next Man Up: Bell expected to move back to safety


Like many teams around the league, the Cowboys sent a strong message in free agency. However, it wasn't in the form of adding a lot of players or keeping the majority of their own. What seems clear for the Cowboys is their willingness to give opportunities to younger players on the team.

This roster is loaded with players still on their rookie contracts that haven't had that breakout season just yet. Could it be this year? The Cowboys can only hope, especially considering they signed just one player (Eric Kendricks) in free agency and currently have just six picks in the NFL Draft later this month.

So the Cowboys have to lean on some of their previous drafts and free-agent signings to help fill out this roster.

Today, we'll continue the series with safety Markquese Bell.

  • Name: Markquese Bell
  • Position: Safety
  • Experience: 3rd Year
  • Games Played/Starts: 22 / 8
  • Years Left on Contract: 1
  • How Acquired: UDFA 2022 (Florida A&M)
  • Key Stat: Bell had a career-high 10 tackles in a game on three separate occasions in 2023, against Philadelphia, Carolina and Detroit.

The Past: Proof that the Cowboys are using their "30 visits" to explore a variety of options, Bell was one of the 30 players brought in by the team back in 2022. He didn't get drafted but was signed as a free agent after the draft and has made the team each of the past two years. Bell played safety in college at Florida A&M but was used in a more hybrid role at linebacker, especially on passing downs last year. Bell finished second on the team with 103 tackles, only behind Damone Clark (115).

The Present: The Cowboys haven't made any bold announcement regarding alignment of players. And that typically wouldn't be something new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer would want to discuss this time of year. But there has been enough discussion regarding Bell that he would likely be moved back to safety from the linebacker role he was playing in Dan Quinn's scheme. With the Cowboys likely not re-signing Jayron Kearse, who is one of the last remaining unsigned free agents, there is a void for the versatile safety that can player closer to the line of scrimmage. Bell should get the chance to compete for playing time in what is stacking up to be a crowded safety room with the likes of veterans Donovan Wilson and Malik Hooker, along with Juanyeh Thomas, Israel Mukuamu and Bell.

The Future: This will be the final year on Bell's contract, but he would be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Because Bell was undrafted, the Cowboys can only receive compensation for losing him if they were to place a second-round or first-round tender. The original draft tender would still give them a chance to match any offer sheet, but they would get no draft pick in return if he signed elsewhere because he wasn't drafted. However, the second-round tender in 2025 would be around $4.9 and the first-round tender should be at $6.9 million. So while that's still a year away, it's another example how important it is for players such as Bell to perform at a high level this year. Usually, the Cowboys would try to avoid restricted free agency, especially with undrafted players, and try to sign them to a long-term deal instead of paying him the one-year tender.

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