Proving how dire this year’s free-agent safety class is, Jeff Heath will be greeted by a robust market when the NFL’s signing period kicks off.
According to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News, the veteran starting safety has already garnered interest from teams, “including the Cowboys,” almost two weeks to the day before the legal tampering window opens.
Watkins didn’t specify which suitors, other than the Cowboys, are poking around Heath, who underwent successful surgery last month after playing through two bum shoulders in 2019. The injuries limited him to 13 appearances and 63 tackles.
He added seven pass deflections but was noticeably sterile from a play-making standpoint, registering zero interceptions or forced fumbles for the league’s 10th-ranked pass defense.
A 2013 undrafted free agent, Heath wrapped up his seventh season in Dallas, for whom he’s totaled 345 combined tackles, 24 pass breakups, eight picks and five forced fumbles across 106 appearances (44 starts).
Considered the weak link on an otherwise star-studded unit, Heath was nearly replaced prior to October’s trade deadline as the Cowboys came close to acquiring Pro Bowler Jamal Adams from the New York Jets. A subsequent report suggested the club would make another bid for Adams, forming an ideal on-paper tandem with FS Xavier Woods.
If not, and Adams stays put in the Big Apple, they remain committed to upgrading on Heath this offseason — despite the brain trust’s wet-blanket offerings.
“I’m not going to speculate. That poor safety position. It gets shorted every time,” Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said Monday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Cowboys met with LSU safety Grant Delpit at the Combine, and he very well could be the pick at No. 17 overall. Alabama’s Xavier McKinney, arguably the best safety in the 2020 rookie pool, was recently mocked to Dallas by draft expert Daniel Jeremiah.
As for Heath, an option among the likes of Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Karl Joseph, there’s likely a starting job awaiting him elsewhere. He offers seven years of experience and can pull double duty on special teams. He won’t break the bank, either. Perhaps the New York Giants kick his tires after exploring prospective Cowboys free-agent targets Jason Witten and Sean Lee.
It’d ultimately be surprising if he hasn’t logged his final down with Dallas, whose $77 million of salary-cap space is prioritized toward quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper, and pass-rusher Robert Quinn.
Unrestricted free agency formally starts Wednesday, March 18, preceded by the aforementioned tampering window beginning Monday, March 16.
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Amari to Land Long-Term Cowboys Contract ‘Very Soon’?
The Cowboys and Cooper’s representatives shared an “upbeat” conversation at the Super Bowl in Miami regarding a new contract for the free-agent wide receiver. The sides met again during this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where significant headway was made toward a (mostly) mutual goal.
ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported Saturday that negotiations “are set to intensify very soon” between Dallas and the Pro Bowl pass-catcher, who’s been projected to land as much as $20 million annually on his next deal.
The Cowboys are working against the clock and the soon-to-be ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is expected to eliminate use of both the franchise and transition tags. They would have the franchise tag at their disposal, though that’s likely to be applied to Prescott, barring a long-term agreement by March 12, the tag deadline.
“It’s what it is. We’ll just have to figure out a way to (get it done). … There’s no question it’s going to put on a bigger angst,” owner Jerry Jones said at the Combine on Thursday, per the Dallas Morning News, admitting to the difficulty of retaining Prescott and Cooper in 2020.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL