Jeff Heath, who has made his name mostly as a special teamer, is in line to become the Dallas Cowboys’ starting strong safety next season.
Heath finds himself in this position after Barry Church signed with Jacksonville and J.J. Wilcox is headed to Tampa Bay.
Church has been a four-year starter for the Cowboys’ secondary, including 12 starts at strong safety last season. Wilcox started the other four games when Church went down with a broken forearm.
But Heath has made a favorable impression on the coaching staff. He has become a standout special teamer, ranking third with seven special teams tackles last season.
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Heath, who turns 26 in May, has also shown a knack for the ball when he’s filled in at safety. He led the team with two interceptions in 2015 and also had an interception last season. Heath had a hard hit and sack of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the divisional round playoff loss as well.
In a limited role throughout the season, Heath was credited with 20 tackles, one interception and two passes defensed.
Heath joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of Saginaw Valley State in 2013, and signed a four-year extension prior to last season.
But Heath won’t be handed the starting safety job. He’ll be in competition with Kavon Frazier, a sixth-round pick last season who played in nine games, and possibly a rookie as the Cowboys will be eyeing safeties in the upcoming draft.
But the Cowboys knew their secondary would be in line for drastic changes with the only significant contributors under contract being free safety Byron Jones and cornerbacks Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown.
Along with Church and Wilcox, cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are free agents. The Cowboys added depth to their secondary, though, by agreeing to a deal with cornerback Nolan Carroll on Friday.