Xavier Woods will go from starting for the Cowboys in 2020 to starting against the Cowboys in 2021.
On Saturday, the Minnesota Vikings signed the former Dallas safety to a one-year contract. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports the deal is worth up to $2.25 million and that Woods is a “perfect system fit” with “high upside” in Minnesota.
Which was echoed by his now-former Cowboys teammate, linebacker Justin March, an unrestricted free agent.
“X in the purple and gold that’s toughhhhh. I’ve Never seen him not watching film on his iPad They got them a hell of a player and true pro,” March tweeted.
But at a time when Justin Simmons is landing record-setting money and the likes of John Johnson are scoring $11 million annually, it says something that Woods — a 48-game starter — had to settle for an incentive-laden prove-it pact amid the second wave of the NFL’s signing period.
Woods’ tape with the Cowboys strongly suggested “JAG,” and his commitment from the Vikings, despite a media-driven narrative, seems to confirm just that.
“The Xavier Woods projections were all at about 3/4 years for $6m or so and it all dried up with the depleted cap. It has happened to dozens of middle tier starters or key backups. But he has a job which is better than most,” tweeted columnist Bob Sturm of The Athletic.
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A 2017 sixth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech, Woods has made 60 career appearances, all in Dallas. He’s totaled 247 combined tackles (172 solo), 18 pass breakups, five interceptions, and three forced fumbles across four seasons.
Woods enjoyed a solid two-year stretch from 2018-19, registering 91 solo tackles, 14 PBUs, and four INTs over that span. Unfortunately for the Cowboys’ defense, he fell off a cliff in 2020 — no picks, one pass deflection — and eventually was usurped by Donovan Wilson as the team’s top safety.
Unfortunately for Woods, he likely will be best remembered for matter-of-factly admitting to “a lack” of effort and arguing it’s “not possible” to go “full speed” every snap, a brutal indictment of then-defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
“Our effort’s been good. I mean on certain plays some guys, I mean me included, there may be a lack but overall the effort is there,” he said last October on 105.3 The Fan. “I mean you don’t expect, we’re in the NFL, you don’t expect guys (to go) full speed for 70 plays. That’s not possible. We’re going to push as hard as we can. You don’t expect a backside corner to make a play on the opposite side. (If) he’s running full speed the whole time it’s just not possible to be honest.”
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Writing on the Wall
It became increasingly apparent that Woods, who languished on the open market for nearly two weeks, was no longer in the Cowboys’ future plans. The club devoted the beginning of free agency to re-signing some of their own players; if Woods was coming back, he would have put pen to paper prior to Saturday.
Dallas cemented his departure by landing not one, not two, but three safeties in Neal, Kearse, and Kazee, the latter of whom is projected to start opposite Wilson in 2021.
Neal, a former Atlanta Falcons first-round pick who reunites with new Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, is expected to work primarily at weakside linebacker while Kearse will be a depth piece and special teams contributor.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL