Will the Cowboys finally draft the safety fans deserve?

Richie Grant, UCF Knights (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
Richie Grant, UCF Knights (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

For years, the Dallas Cowboys have suffered from mediocre play at their safety position. This is due in large part to their front office choosing to underinvest in the position over that same span.

The Cowboys have simply decided they can win without getting stellar play from their safeties. There’s really no other explanation. On a team full of superstars, many demanding large contracts, there are only so many slices of salary cap pie.

So Dallas has refused to sign a high-priced free agent to address their issues at safety. Instead, the front office has brought in inexpensive veterans like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, George Iloka, and Robert Blanton in recent years. None of which have panned out.

For a team that loves to proclaim their wish to build through the draft, they’ve elected not to invest highly in the safety position there either. Their top two starters from last season, Xavier Woods and Donovon Wilson, are both previous sixth-round selections.

The Cowboys drafted Tulsa cornerback Reggie Robinson II in the fourth round last year and converted him to safety in the offseason. He played a mere five games as a rookie and all his limited snaps were on special teams.

Dallas had a chance to land a trio of young, talented safeties with their top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. That included the Kansas City Chiefs’ Juan Thornhill, who will be playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday. Instead, the Cowboys chose UCF defensive tackle Trysten Hill who has yet to record his first sack in the NFL.

Discounting Robinson and former 2015 first-rounder Byron Jones, who didn’t reach his potential in Dallas until he moved back to cornerback from safety, the Cowboys haven’t committed a draft selection higher than a sixth-rounder to the position in nearly a decade.

So, the Cowboys have refused to sign top-tier free agents at safety. And they have refused to invest high-draft selections to the position outside of the rare converted corner. Will this finally be the year Dallas lands the ball-hawking playmaker at safety fans have been begging for?

With a new defensive coordinator in charge in Dan Quinn, the former leader of the Legion of Boom undoubtedly understands the importance of safety play. During his two-year stint as the DC of the Seattle Seahawks, Quinn employed two of the league’s top safeties in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. And they helped lead the team to back-to-back Super Bowl runs.

If Quinn believes he has his hard-hitting strong safety in Wilson, perhaps the Cowboys will finally invest a high draft selection to find his ball-hawking partner. Here’s what NFL analyst Bucky Brooks wrote for DallasCowboys.com recently about the prospect of Central Flordia safety Richie Grant being on the radar for America’s Team after an outstanding performance during the Senior Bowl.

"“It is hard to find safeties with a loaded toolbox that enables them to thrive near the box as a run stopper or in the deep middle as a centerfielder. Grant is an aggressive defender with excellent tackling skills and big hit ability. In addition, he is an instinctive ball hawk with outstanding instincts, awareness, and ball skills.”"

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Richie Grant is one of three names that are emerging as top safety candidates the Dallas Cowboys might target on Day Two of the upcoming draft. The other two are TCU’s Trevon Moehrig and Ar’Darius Washington. Other safety prospects to watch include Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen and Syracuse’s Andre Cisco.

Will the Cowboys actually draft any of them? History tells us no. But fans can only hope.