Mac Engel

For mysterious reasons, the Cowboys don’t value this position. And it’s still a problem

The Dallas Cowboys spend more time finding punters and kickers than they do safeties.

After more than a decade Cowboys fans are accustomed to the issue, which is now a crisis. For reasons known only to mystical powers, one of the most important positions on the field remains low on the priority list.

The Cowboys have had a Pro Bowler at every position but safety in the last decade.

There is no logical reason to explain why the safety positions remain a steady cast of third-day draft picks, middle-tier veteran free agents, and/or undrafted rookie free agents.

As a result, this problem will remain a problem until the Cowboys actually address it with cash, or a high pick.

Although Jeff Heath was regarded as a potential salary cap casualty, he may stick yet again. Expect him and cheap free agent addition George Iloka with Xavier Woods to occupy one of the more important positions on a defense.


The last time they spent a first-round pick on a safety was Roy Williams in 2002; the last time they spent a second-round pick on a safety was Tony Dixon in 2001.

In the Jason Garrett era, they have maintained this trend of addressing this position by any means other than a high pick, or money on an expensive free agent.

Under Garrett, the Cowboys’ “big splurge” on a safety was spending a third-round pick on J.J. Wilcox in 2013. The Georgia Southern alum lasted four seasons before the Cowboys did not re-sign him as a free agent.

Since the days of Roy Williams and Darren Woodson at the position, the list of suspects includes Jeff Heath, Woods, Kavon Frazier, Dixon, Barry Church, Darlan Thompson, Wilcox, Danny McCray, Gerald Sensabaugh, Abram Elam, Alan Ball, Ken Hamlin, Keith Davis; Byron Jones was drafted in the first round as a cornerback who was moved to safety and then moved back to cornerback, where he excelled last season.

Hamlin, who signed with the Cowboys as a free agent in 2007, turned in one of the great value seasons ever by a Cowboys free agent. He was a Pro Bowler in ‘07, was handed a six-year contract, and then did nothing.

Ex-Seahawks safety Earl Thomas was the guy you wanted, but the Cowboys were never going to commit to a guy they fear will suffer another injury. He signed a four-year deal with the Ravens.

Former Seahawks teammate Kam Chancellor likely is not going to come out of retirement to play.


The latest option to “take over” at safety is former Texas A&M standout Donovan Wilson. He was a sixth-round pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, where all great Cowboys safeties are selected. Their previous three safeties they selected in the draft were in the sixth round (Woods, Frazier) or seventh round (Ahmad Dixon).

Don’t hold it against Wilson; he had a sixth-round grade and was drafted where he was projected. If he makes the team and plays some special teams and nickel situations, call it a success.

“When I was growing up, I watched (former Eagles safety) Brian Dawkins a lot; he came to one of our games,” Wilson said Saturday. “I got a picture with him. He was on our sideline when we played Mississippi State when Dak (Prescott) was their quarterback.

“(Dawkins’ advice was) to play physical every chance you get. To hit and hit hard.”

Wilson is regarded as a tough player who can hit, but lacks the range to affect much in coverage. If that sounds like some of the other names mentioned on this list, it’s not a coincidence.

Finding a safety who can cover, catch interceptions and hit is as easy as finding Santa Claus ... the real one.

Top quality safeties are expensive, either in free agency or the draft.

For reasons known only to an entity more powerful than Jerry Jones, the Cowboys simply will not spend the cash, or the picks, to find that type of safety.

The problem will remain the problem until they do.

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