Who and what the Dallas Cowboys need at safety

CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 31: Tre Boston
CARSON, CA - DECEMBER 31: Tre Boston /

The Dallas Cowboys are in the market for a new safety but finding one with the right skills may prove to be a tough task. Here’s who and what they need…

The Dallas Cowboys need an upgrade at safety. This seemed obvious even before moving Byron Jones to cornerback. Now, with Jones playing the boundary, the need is borderline dire. But not just any safety will do. You cannot simply force a player to fit your specific scheme or specific role within your scheme.

Just a few days ago Cowboys Nation erupted in a largely unified uproar when Tyrann Mathieu signed a 1-year/$7 million deal with the Texans. The playmaking safety from LSU has always been a fan favorite and his pro highlight reel in Arizona has only furthered the love.

But despite the local infatuation, the Cowboys were said to be uninterested. Judging by the modest deal, one could say the rest of the NFL wasn’t overly interested either. That isn’t to say fans and media have grossly misevaluated the player known as “Honey Badger”, it just means we might not be focused on the specific needs of the Cowboys.

Disclosure: For the sake of honesty, I should first say I was disappointed when Mathieu signed elsewhere at such an affordable and low risk deal. Even though his injury history is a bit troubling and his scheme fit is far from a match, he’s a playmaker in the secondary and that’s something the Cowboys desperately need.

For as great as a player like Tyrann Mathieu is in coverage, he’s not the deep safety the Cowboys are looking for. And that’s likely why the Cowboys didn’t appear to be remotely interested.

Center-fielder needed

Earlier today we broke down the three different roles of the safety position on the Cowboys. Dallas appears to have two of those roles adequately filled: the in-the-box thumper (Kavon Frazier) and man coverage specialist (Xavier Woods).

But one safety role, and arguably most important, has no clear solution on the roster: The deep safety. The deep safety serves as a center-fielder on the Kris Richard’s single high defense.

For as great as a player like Tyrann Mathieu is in coverage, he’s not the deep safety the Cowboys are looking for. And that’s likely why Dallas didn’t appear to be remotely interested.

Finding the right guy

Finding a proven center-fielding safety is one of the hardest endeavors to take on. For a team like the Cowboys, who predominantly run a single-high safety scheme, it’s that deep safety that’s the most important.

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That’s why the Earl Thomas rumors make so much sense. He’s a perfect fit, so it’s no wonder he’s interested in the Dallas and that Dallas is interested in him. Even with the unrealistically high trade demands, don’t expect these rumors to end anytime soon. The fit and the needs are too darn perfect to ignore.

Tre Boston from the Chargers is both a fit and available. He doesn’t have the notoriety of Earl Thomas, but he’s a free agent and would come at a fraction of the annual cost. He has proven experience in Gus Bradley’s single-high scheme, and at 25-years-old, he’s still an ascending talent.

From a coverage perspective, Boston is a perfect fit. His experience and performance make him an instant starter with Cowboys and would push Jeff Heath is a more fitting depth role. In coverage, Boston was rated by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s No. 9 safety last season. Jeff Heath, Dallas’ top ranked coverage safety, came in at No. 22.

Next: Cowboys complete 7-round mock draft (latest version)

Not all safeties are created equally and not all safeties will fit every scheme. The Dallas Cowboys are in the market for a very specific type of safety. Luckily, they have a couple options. But since those options are limited, they can’t afford to sit on their hands much longer.