The Minnesota Vikings locked in the final starting piece of its defensive overhaul this offseason after agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with former Dallas Cowboys safety Xavier Woods on Saturday.
Both sides agreed to a deal worth up to $2.25 million, per Ian Rapoport. Woods is guaranteed $1.75 million and has $500,000 in bonus incentives — a budget-friendly deal for a player who is a “perfect system fit” and has “high upside,” Rapoport said.
However, there’s criticism that rose surrounding a lackluster 2020 campaign by Woods, which was tied to struggles the entire Cowboys defense faced last season.
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Xavier Woods’ ‘Effort’ Comment Explodes in Cowboys Fan Base
Woods was considered a darling of the Cowboys secondary back in 2017 when Dallas traded up to get the Lousiana Tech product in the sixth round. He became a bonafide starter in 2018 and was ranked among the top 40 safeties in the league the past two seasons.
But when the Cowboys defense allowed 42 points in three consecutive games early last season, many players came under scrutiny.
Effort came into question. And Woods made a comment that left many Dallas loyalists with a bad taste in their mouths.
“The effort’s been good. On certain plays, some guys — I mean, me included — there may be a lack. But overall, the effort is there. We’re in the NFL. You don’t expect guys to (go) full speed for 70 plays; that’s not possible,” Woods said. “But we’re going to push as hard as we can. I mean, we know. You don’t expect the back-side corner to go make a play on the opposite side the whole time. That’s just not possible, to be honest.”
Skip Bayless attempted to bury Woods for his honest, yet proactive comment.
An NFL Network producer weighed in, saying he thinks Woods’ comments were misinterpreted.
Woods followed the comment with a humbling response that equated watching film as an opportunity to “take that medicine,” a message he’ll surely need to carry with him entering a secondary room helmed by a no-nonsense coach like Mike Zimmer.
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Cowboys Analyst Comes to Woods’ Defense
Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson spoke with Dallas radio analyst and former NFL quarterback Babe Laufenberg to get more insight into what Woods offers as a player entering a prove-it year after a slip to ranking 45th at his position group in 2020.
“I don’t think that’s incorrect,” Laufenberg said of Woods slipping. “But the whole defense suffered last year. They were just not that good. I couldn’t tell you anybody that had a year beyond expectations. Their run defense was so bad last year. (Woods) might as well have been a linebacker. A safety obviously has to come up and make some plays occasionally in the run game, but if your safety is sitting there making 10 tackles, you had a bad game defensively, clearly in the run game.”
Woods was second on the team with 72 combined tackles and did not have the same freedom to flourish in coverage he once did. He had no interceptions and just one pass defended after totaling four interceptions and 14 passes defended in 2018 and 2019.
But as a starting-caliber safety, Woods provides plenty of bang for his buck as a versatile piece opposite of Harrison Smith. He’s proven to show instincts that can’t be coached and, provided the opportunity to work with Zimmer, could bounce back in 2021.
“I like him,” Laufenberg, who has a close relationship with Zimmer from his 1994-2005 stint as a Dallas assistant, said. “Xavier’s a great kid. The game is important to him. I know he works hard. When I look at him, I see a really solid player. He studies. He wants to be good. He wants to be coached.”
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