Cowboys Pegged as ‘Ideal’ Free-Agent Landing Spot for Former First-Round CB

Trae Waynes

Getty Trae Waynes

In less than a month, the Dallas Cowboys‘ secondary will undergo wholesale changes, beginning with the probable defections of free-agent starters Byron Jones and Jeff Heath.

To offset their potential losses, the Cowboys should add an influx of fresh blood this offseason, be it on the open market or through the draft — or both. And Bleacher Report picked an “ideal” candidate to kick off the transfusion.

Minnesota Vikings CB Trae Waynes.

The Dallas Cowboys’ free-agent options won’t be plentiful since Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper’s potential re-signings are the organization’s top priorities.

If/when those deals are reached, Dallas can turn its attention to the secondary since Byron Jones is also a free agent and the top available cornerback on the market.

Theoretically, the Cowboys have the financial flexibility to afford Prescott, Cooper and Jones, but the emphasis on Jones may decrease since Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard are no longer running the defense.

Instead, Dallas can lean on Chidobe Awuzie as its top cover corner and go after another cornerback who will probably cost half of what Jones demands.

New Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy saw Trae Waynes quite a bit during his time in the NFC North. The 2015 first-round pick still struggles at times, but he’s physical against the run and flashes in coverage.

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Background on Waynes

Chosen with the No. 11 overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft, Waynes put a bow atop his rookie contract in 2019 with 58 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception across 14 starts. He was inactive for Minnesota’s Week 10 win over Dallas.

Waynes never quite justified his draft status, as just last February he was being shopped in a potential trade. No takers were found for his services, so the Vikings exercised Waynes’ fifth-year option.

Inconsistent in coverage despite a solid 6-foot build and blazing 4.31 speed, he has totaled 247 career tackles, 42 pass deflections and seven picks over five professional seasons.

A three-year contributor at Michigan State (2012-14), Waynes earned first-team All-Big Ten honors during his final collegiate year, when he notched three INTs and broke up eight passes for the Spartans.

Possible Fit in Dallas

The Cowboys will soon be hurting for defensive back depth. Not only are Jones and Heath heading to the open market, but CBs Anthony Brown and C.J. Goodwin and safeties Kavon Frazier and Darian Thompson are free agents, as well.

Waynes would step in as a tentative starter along the perimeter, bookending Chidobe Awuzie, with Jourdan Lewis manning the slot. The Cowboys, however, couldn’t rest on a singular addition, especially one as unreliable as Waynes. They’re likely to import another starting-caliber player even if the 27-year-old puts pen to paper.

According to the rumor mill, Dallas owner Jerry Jones is eyeing a “big splash” for a defender in April’s draft. Holding the No. 17 overall choice, the team may trade up into the top-ten looking to nab Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, considered the best CB in the 2020 class.

While Okudah is slated to go within the first 12 selections, the Cowboys wouldn’t surrender their entire war chest to move into his range. The draft trade value chart indicates they can jump from 17 (950 “points”) to 10 (1300 “points”) by ceding only their second-rounder (No. 51 overall; 390 “points”).

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL