Cowboys safeties roster review: Even without Jayron Kearse depth chart may be full

Thanks to expiring contracts and their big change at defensive coordinator, the Dallas Cowboys have plenty of work to do on defense this offseason. But one position that may not need much attention is safety, with both starting jobs and backup spots seemingly covered by talent already under contract for 2024.

This may sound surprising given that Jayron Kearse is one of Dallas’ bigger names approaching free agency in March. But with Dan Quinn’s exit and Mike Zimmer’s arrival, the way that Kearse and other safeties were deployed the last few years is probably going away. That should reduce the total snaps from safeties going forward, and knock the veteran out of his job completely.

For example, some looks had all three of Kearse, Malik Hooker, and Donovan Wilson on the field with Kearse playing a hybrid linebacker role in coverage. Quinn’s comfort with playing a bigger safety this way, which also led to Markquese Bell’s conversion to linebacker in 2023, isn’t likely to apply under Zimmer. He wants more traditional physical prototypes at the positions, so we should see less of Quinn’s “small ball” approach.

Safeties Under Contract for 2024

  • Donovan Wilson – $7.37m cap hit
  • Malik Hooker – $3.99m cap hit
  • Juanyeh Thomas – $915k cap hit
  • Sheldrick Redwine – $1.13m cap hit

This means that Bell (who we listed among linebackers in this series due to last year) is probably heading back to safety next season. With Hooker and Wilson already signed up as returning starters, that makes Bell and Juanyeh Thomas capable backups with intriguing future potential. If Zimmer is going to reduce the group’s workload overall, those may be the only four safeties Dallas needs in 2024.

Even if Dallas does keep a fifth safety, re-signing Kearse doesn’t seem like the move. He just turned 30 and has already started showing some decline on the field. His role on the team feels sufficiently covered by Bell, who could serve in the hybrid position or simply be a more traditional strong safety.

While he was surprisingly quiet last year, Israel Mukuamu is also still around as a versatile defensive back to play corner or safety. That seems a much more likely way that the Cowboys would carry a fifth guy; one who can double as a CB or at least give you strong value on special teams. Kearse does neither.

While neither Hooker or Wilson are NFL superstars, they allow Dallas to focus on needier positions without being liabilities. Their combined cap hit of just over $11 million is a steal, but we’ll have to wait and see how well they adapt to Zimmer’s scheme. Thankfully, even if it’s not as good for them as Quinn’s, they’re relatively inexpensive enough that it will be hard for them to lose value.

Sure, we’d all love to see a safety like Derwin James or Budda Baker in Dallas. But with bigger fish to fry at other positions, the Cowboys can feel comfortable about their current group going forward. They have solid starters and capable backups, enough that they can let Jayron Kearse walk in free agency without it feeling like much of a loss.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *