What’s Next For Safety: In-House Decisions To Make


Nick Eatman

FRISCO, Texas – With so many questions to answer, this series will take a look at each position on the roster, and what choices might face the front office heading into 2021.

We’ll continue at the safety position, a spot that hasn’t been truly solidified in decades.

Today, let’s focus on those who are on the roster, including some key players actually entering free agency.

What Do The Cowboys Do With Xavier Woods?

Offseason decisions can sometimes be like a line of dominoes. One move triggers the whole thing, and from there it can turn into quite a scene.

For the Cowboys, particularly at safety, the first decision needs to start in-house.

The Cowboys have had Xavier Woods in the starting lineup for the past three seasons, but he’s about to enter free agency as his four-year contract will expire in March. He will likely get the chance to test the free-agent waters, as it’s highly unlikely the Cowboys will attempt to re-sign him before March 17, or at all.

Last year, Woods was ranked 56th among all safeties by the website ProFootballFocus.com, which does an intense grading scale on every player at every position. However, for some clarity, Seattle’s Jamal Adams, a player the Cowboys nearly traded for back in the offseason when he was with the Jets, ranked 53rd on the PFF list. (Donovan Wilson was 18th among starting safeties).

But the Cowboys have tried Woods for the past three seasons and the results have been marginal at best.

This past year was the first season of his career in which he didn’t record at least one interception. After getting one pick as a rookie in 2017, Woods had two in each the past two seasons before this year. And it’s not like the chances weren’t available to Woods, who played the second-most defensive snaps for the Cowboys in 2020, behind only Jaylon Smith.

Aside from no interceptions, Woods didn’t record a single forced fumble or fumble recovery and had just two pass deflections.

He did have a career-high 86 tackles, good for second on the team, but the Cowboys simply needed more plays out of Woods, especially if they are considering re-signing him next year.

While it appears as if the Cowboys might allow Woods to walk away in free agency, they do have to consider all options, such as the rest of the free-agent market, coupled with the draft, which doesn’t seem to have a surplus of game-changing safeties, especially none the Cowboys would consider at No. 10.

Then again, even if there were, it’s unlikely the Cowboys would consider that move. Not since Roy Williams (8th overall) was drafted in 2002 have the Cowboys picked a safety in the first round. In fact, they haven’t even taken a safety in the second round since that season, mostly relying on later-round draft picks such as Woods and Wilson to fill in.

So before Woods is completely dismissed, don’t rule out him testing the waters for a few days in free agency, as the Cowboys will do the same. He’s still a prime candidate to return on a one-year deal.

Perhaps, Dan Quinn’s new system will open up more opportunities for the safeties and the Cowboys will want to at least cover themselves in the event they don’t get adequate help in free agency or the draft.

Whether it’s Woods or someone else, the Cowboys must find some starting help at safety who can create more turnovers, or some at all.

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