The Dallas Cowboys stole — with a capital “S” — Damontae Kazee in free agency.
Presumably the team’s starting safety in 2021, Kazee inked a one-year contract with Dallas last week. The contract, NFL insider Aaron Wilson reported Monday, is worth $1.127 million and included a $137,500 signing bonus. He will earn $990,000 in base salary, of which just $250,000 is guaranteed.
The agreement was billed as a prove-it pact for the NFL’s former interceptions leader, whose 2020 campaign was cut short by a torn Achilles’ tendon. But its total sum still is surprising given the landmark safety deals negotiated this offseason, including Denver’s record-setting $61 million commitment to Justin Simmons.
“that seems … shockingly low. even for a guy coming off an Achilles injury. the safety market is wild,” noted Cowboys in-house writer David Helman.
Kazee is the third defensive back added by the Cowboys amid the annual signing period. The team also brought aboard former Falcons first-round choice Keanu Neal, who’s expected to work at weakside linebacker, and ex-Lions pinch-starter Jayron Kearse, a likely special teams contributor.
Possible Dallas Cowboys Week 1 starting lineup pic.twitter.com/E7PjmbfAhQ
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 26, 2021
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Refresher on Kazee
A 2017 fifth-round draft pick from San Diego State, Kazee has compiled 199 tackles (137 solo), 13 pass breakups, 10 interceptions, and five forced fumbles across 52 career games (34 starts) for the Falcons.
Kazee, 27, experienced his best season in 2018, tying for the league lead with seven INTs. He tallied another three picks the following season, an ascending talent under ex-Falcons head coach and new Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
His aforementioned Achilles’ injury limited Kazee to 20 tackles and zero INTs over four games, after which point Atlanta opted to let his rookie deal expire. He drew little interest on the open market prior to the Cowboys swooping in.
Kazee (5-11, 190) was an accomplished collegian, twice named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year (2015, 2016) as well as First-Team All-Mountain West. He appeared in 53 games for the Aztecs, posting 240 combined tackles (171 solo), 29 PBUs, and 17 INTs.
“A three-year starter at San Diego State, Damontae Kazee was a certified playmaker over the last two seasons, collecting 15 interceptions,” reads his Bleacher Report scouting profile. “Kazee, who almost declared for last year’s draft, is a quick, instinctive cornerback with obvious skills flipping the field. He is naturally quick and plays faster than he was timed.
“He has a knack for making plays and has great timing to close on the ball. His toughness shouldn’t be questioned, no matter his size. Kazee will fight with receivers at the line or through the route. In zone coverage, he is a natural fit and may be able to play on the outside of an NFL defense. If not, he’s a top-notch contributor in the slot and in special teams.”
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Woods Defects to Minnesota
At the same time the Falcons were plotting to move on from Kazee, the Cowboys were planning a similar exit for former starting safety Xavier Woods, who saw the writing on the wall and took the hint.
On Saturday, the Minnesota Vikings signed Woods to a one-year contract. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the deal is worth up to $2.25 million and that Woods is a “perfect system fit” with “high upside” in Minnesota.
Woods made 60 career appearances in Dallas. He registered 247 combined tackles (172 solo), 18 pass breakups, five interceptions, and three forced fumbles across four seasons.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL