The Detroit Lions made a couple moves to free up salary cap space on Thursday by releasing veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson and safety Louis Delmas. Although some of the speculation in the local media has Burleson as a possible free agent value to land in Dallas, safety is a bigger position of need in Big “D”. And Delmas is a young, quality player at that position. But is he worth the risk?
Delmas was the Lion’s pick right at the very top of the second round in 2009. Named to the NFL All- Rookie team in his first year and landing as a Pro Bowl Alternate for the next two seasons, Delmas’ recent productivity has been plagued by injuries. Prior to playing all 16 games this season, the soon-to-be 27 year old played in 16 games total the prior two seasons combined due to injury. Last year, Delmas recorded 64 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions.
Delmas has been bothered by a degenerative knee condition ever since he entered the league six years ago. That fact, combined with the $6 million Detroit saved by cutting him now made his released a no-brainer. Despite his price tag and injury history, several teams have shown interest in possibly signing the new free agent. Chief among them is the Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys currently have safety Barry Church as one of their starters. Church had a career season last year, leading the Cowboys in tackles with 135. Just how big was last season for him? In his previous three years, Church recorded just 54 tackles in total.
Behind Church is were the question marks begin to spring up. Rookie safeties J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath had roller-coaster seasons as both ended up starting at the position last year due to injury. Speaking of injury, there’s Matt Johnson. The Cowboys fourth round pick in 2012 has yet to see any regular season action due to various aliments. The Cowboys are hoping one of these three players steps up this offseason.
Although Dallas certainly has a need at the position, especially for a veteran, I’m not sure Delmas is worth the risk. The Cowboys need a rangy safety who can make plays on the ball as well as tackle. Not a big ball-hawk, Delmas did get three interceptions last season. But his tackling numbers have declined ever since his first two seasons. No doubt a result of the injuries he’s suffered since then. Honestly, I think there are better options available, including simply grooming the Cowboys third round pick from last year, Wilcox, for that open starting safety position.