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Next Man Up: Defining a role for Juanyeh Thomas


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 Juanyeh Thomas.

  • Name: Juanyeh Thomas
  • Position: Safety
  • Experience: 3rd Year
  • Games Played/Starts: 16 / 1
  • Years Left on Contract: 1
  • How Acquired: UDFA 2022 (Georgia Tech)
  • Key Stat: All three of his special teams tackles occurred in final two games of 2023 season.

The Past: The Cowboys have had plenty of success over the years in finding talent in the undrafted free agent market. Thomas is another example of that and he was able to make the team, despite the fact the Cowboys have been rather deep at the safety position. In his two years on the squad, Thomas has had to fight for playing time with the likes of starters Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse and Donovan Wilson, along with Israel Mukuamu and Markquese Bell. Still, Thomas has carved a role, both on defense and special teams. He made the first key play of the 2023 season when he blocked a field goal attempt against the Giants in Week 1 and the ball was returned for a touchdown by Noah Igbinoghene. Throughout the year, Thomas played more and more on defense and special teams.

The Present: The safety position still has plenty of experience despite the expected loss of Kearse, who is a free agent and remains unsigned. It's unlikely he would return to the Cowboys for next year. That opens up another spot for a physical safety who can play closer to the line of scrimmage. Also, Thomas is a unique player because he has a strong-safety skills but also with a history of returning kicks as well. That kind of combo of tacking ability and speed usually make for a good special teams players. And with the new rules on the kickoffs now in place, players such as Thomas will likely be counted on to contribute both in the kickoff return and coverage teams.

The Future: This is the final year on Thomas' contract as he would be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. While he to compete with other experienced safeties on the roster, Thomas should get enough reps in the preseason games to showcase his ability, whether it's for a new contract with the Cowboys or other squads. But this will be a big season for him, and considering he has continued to show development in each of his first two seasons, this could be a breakout season for Thomas, who could force the Cowboys to keep him on the field with his playmaking ability.

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