The Dallas Cowboys will need to upgrade their safety position this offseason despite an impressive turnaround under first-year defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Is the better path to address the problem in free agency or in the NFL draft come this April?
That depends. What is the asking price for Seattle Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs? If reasonable, should this be the Cowboys' top free agent target?
Yes, it's known that COO Stephen Jones has already announced a reluctance to go big-fish shopping. But what if the price can be right?
Under Quinn's direction, the secondary improved drastically enough for Dallas to win the NFC East title. The Cowboys finished ranked ranked 20th in passing yards and 18th in net yards per pass attempt allowed.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs will be primed for an All-Pro third season after his 11 interception year in 2021. Rookie cornerback Kelvin Joseph came on strong towards the season's end, grading out with 82.7 grade in coverage by Pro Football Focus.
As for safety, there is change coming, and therefore need for improvement. Jayron Kearse, Damontae Kazee, Malik Hooker and Keanu Neal (who moved to linebacker) all signed one-year deals this offseason and will enter the market again. Donovan Wilson is a carryover, but otherwise, Dallas is going to be busy finding help.
Enter Quandre Diggs, a Houston native and perhaps the top all-around safety in free agency. Depending on how soon he'll be ready to return next season, he could come at a more affordable price than some think.
Since being traded to the Seahawks by the Detroit Lions, Diggs has become one of the top safeties in the sport. In 2020, he recorded 10 pass breakups and five interceptions on his way to a Pro Bowl nod. This past fall, the 29-year-old tallied a career-best 94 tackles, seven pass breakups and five interceptions before the season finale victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
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Diggs suffered a dislocated ankle and broken right fibula during the fourth quarter of Week 18. According to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, he is expected to make a full recovery in the offseason and should be geared to go early next season.
In 1,228 snaps, Diggs thrived as a do-it-all name of the 12th Man secondary. His zone coverage skills allowed him to remain over the top of receivers, thus baiting quarterbacks to throw in his direction.
The biggest surprise was his ability to play the run. According to PFF, Diggs finished with a grade over 70.1 in run support grade for the third time in four seasons. He also has intercepted 21.6 percent of passes thrown his way since arriving in Seattle back in 2019.
Everything comes back to asking price. Keep in mind that Dallas has been frugal spending money at the safety position in years' past.
Neal signed a $5 million deal. Hooker, who has been a quality coverage safety when healthy, was signed for around $1 million. Kazee, who saw the most reps at free safety, agreed to a one-year deal worth less than $2 million.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is going to have to open his wallet more for Diggs, but a deal still could be made. Nearing 30, Diggs likely won't be offered any five-year contracts, but a two-year deal might be more plausible with more guaranteed money promised.
Would Jones and company be willing spend roughly $8 million a season for three years? Would a two-year deal at $9 million a year suffice? Maybe that's being hopeful from a Dallas perspective, but could that range be the starting asking price?
Money talks first and while Dallas could play the risk of going after a name in the draft, finding a stable playmaker on the back end is a priority. Diggs would be an ideal fit for any coordinator the Cowboys could look to hire if Quinn leaves, but it all comes down to Dallas' willingness to spend.