FRISCO - The Dallas Cowboys have more than a dozen "name'' free agents, more than a few of whom populate Pro Football Focus' "Top 100 Free Agents'' list for 2021.
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Most prominent among them? Dak Prescott, of course. But also on the list - ranked No. 50 on PFF’s list - is Xavier Woods. And PFF comes up with a contract prediction here that does not align at all with what we would forecast for the Cowboys at the safety position.
PFF's big conclusion: Dallas is going to give Woods a "$25 million extension, averaging $6.25 million annually,'' when the market opens next month.
"Woods entered the league as a versatile safety with slot coverage skills and a sixth-round draft steal as he’s developed into a solid free safety.''
The problems we have with their logic range from the terminology used (as Woods is slated to be a free agent, is this really going to be a "contract extension''? Well, no) to the evaluation of Woods through the prism of where he was drafted.
The fact that Dallas found him in the sixth round is a credit to the scouting department, to the coaching staff and to Xavier himself, as he's made a nice career for himself. But that has nothing to do with giving him $25 million going forward.
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The Cowboys this spring recognize that the NFL is in a cap crunch, and we've suggested we're about to see a "Middle-Class Squeeze'' because of it. There is about to be a flood onto the market of "solid'' players, safeties and at other positions, lessening the reason to overpay for any of them.
Additionally, the hiring of Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator will provide the Cowboys with another set of evaluation eyeballs. What will he say about Woods vs., say, one of his former Falcons in safety Keanu Neal? What will his top assistant, Joe Whitt, say about one of his old guys in Niners safety Jaquiski Tartt? What about Karl Joseph in Cleveland? Chris Banjo of the Cardinals (via SMU)?
If Dallas wants to spend at safety, what about pursuing Cardinals fading star Patrick Peterson and moving him inside?
Woods continues to get criticism for his unwise early 2020 remark about Dallas effort, when he said, “On certain plays, some guys, I mean me included, there may be a lack, but overall the effort is there. I mean, we’re in the NFL, you don’t expect guys (to go) full speed for 70 plays. That’s not possible.''
That was an unfortunate comment that has little to do with Woods' contractual reality, which we believe is this: Donovan Wilson can play either safety spot and belongs in that rotation. Maybe it's rookie Reggie Robinson's turn to get his uniform dirty as well. Are either of them true "difference-makers''?
No, but Woods has never been that, either. And the idea of paying a safety $6 million a year - any safety - is quite out of character for the Cowboys.
If the Cowboys don't find better answers in free agency (where there figure to be a host of guys at half the PFF cost) or via the NFL Draft (TCU's Trevon Moehrig as a second-rounder?) they can bounce back to Woods and discuss what we might guess would be a one-year contract with minimum guarantees.
The Dallas Cowboys in 2020 offered up one of the poorest defenses in the NFL and one of the poorest defenses in franchise history. Overpaying returnees is, as near as we can tell, not at all the plan.
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