With free agency looming, roster turnover isn't far away. However, a significant portion of the 2020 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with safety Xavier Woods:
What's Been Good:
Overall, Woods has far exceeded typical expectations of a sixth-round draft pick. He earned a valuable role in nickel coverage as a rookie in 2017, and he has started at free safety the last two seasons, posting five career interceptions and three forced fumbles. By averaging at least 35 percent of the defense's snaps his first three seasons, Woods reportedly will receive a sizable salary bump to more than $2 million in 2020 thanks to the NFL's proven-performance escalator system. The Cowboys value Woods' toughness and recognition skills in the secondary and believe he's an ascending player.
What's Been Bad:
Woods was one of the most dynamic players in training camp, consistently making impactful plays around the ball. But he was part of a defense that didn't meet its own expectations in the regular season. The Cowboys finished ninth in total defense but allowed 55 pass plays of at least 20 yards, up from 43 in 2018. Missed tackles were an issue in some key losses down the stretch, and once again, takeaways arrived in intermittent bursts as the group appeared to press at times to make momentum plays. Woods finished the season third on defense in tackles (79) and tied for the most interceptions (2) but had some missed opportunities, including a dropped pick in a critical December loss to the Eagles.
Six Cowboys defensive backs are set to be unrestricted free agents later this month, including starting strong safety Jeff Heath. But Woods still has a year left on his rookie deal, so he looks poised to remain in the starting lineup at free safety. The Cowboys' defense will likely look different from a personnel and scheme standpoint under new coordinator Mike Nolan. It remains to be seen who will be playing alongside Woods, but at just 24 years old he still has room to grow, and perhaps the changes on defense will help his development.