At the start of 2023 NFL free agency, the Cowboys found themselves with over 20 players who had expiring contracts, but there's a large percentage of players on the roster already in place. Over the next few weeks, the staff writers will evaluate those players under contract, reviewing their past performances with an outlook to the future.
Today, we'll start the series with safety Jayron Kearse.
What Worked: After signing with the Cowboys dating back to before the 2021 season, Kearse has been nothing short of spectacular in his two seasons in Dallas. After a career year in 2022, the Clemson University product followed that up with another strong campaign with 77 total tackles (55 solo) along with seven tackles for loss, five pass deflections, and a forced fumble and interception each to go with. Off the field, Kearse has quickly established himself as the heart and soul of the Cowboys' defense as well as a crucial piece of the 2022 safety trio in Dallas.
What Needs Work: Entering his age 29 season in 2023, the question will be health for Kearse. He missed three games this season due to a knee injury early on, but battled a myriad of other ailments he played through nonetheless including an MCL sprain that required offseason season surgery. There's no questioning the toughness and physicality that Kearse brings to the Cowboys' defense, and he started 29 out of a possible 34 regular season games in the last two years, but could be relied upon even more with Donovan Wilson potentially departing in free agency.
His Best Work: The Cowboys won their first road playoff game in over three decades against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Wild Card round in what was Tom Brady's final career game. Even sweeter for Kearse, he nabbed the legend's last career interception in the back of the end zone in the eventual 31-14 win for the Cowboys.
Contract Considerations: Kearse will be an unrestricted free agent following the 2023 season with a base salary of $4 million due with a signing bonus of $1.75 million alongside that. The safety signed a two-year deal to stay with the Cowboys in 2022 after his initial one-year deal in the 2021 offseason.
What's Next: There are only a few players as vital to the Cowboys than Kearse has been over the last two seasons. There should be no change in that stance heading into 2023 as one of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's favorite chess pieces as an anchor in the Dallas secondary entering his third season with the Cowboys before his bout with free agency.