Cowboys Sign Starting Safety to 1-Year Contract: Report

Jayron Kearse

Getty Jayron Kearse of the Vikings.

Three safeties entered The Star. One emerged with a contract.

According to media reports, the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday signed S Jayron Kearse to a one-year deal. Additional terms of the agreement are not available as of press time.

Kearse, 27, was part of a tryout group that included former Colt Malik Hooker and ex-Falcon Damontae Kazee, whose visits were previously scheduled. The Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken reported Tuesday that an offer was “likely” to follow.

“Medical physicals will be paramount Wednesday as Cowboys evaluate three safeties in town. If the team signs two of them, the combination would seem likely to involve Jayron Kearse,” Gehlken tweeted.

Kearse is the seventh out-of-house player (and fifth defender) added by Dallas since NFL free agency opened last week. The team previously signed weakside linebacker/safety Keanu Neal, outside linebacker Tarell Basham, defensive linemen Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins, offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe, and long snapper Jake McQuaide.

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College/NFL Resume

The nephew of former NFL great Jevon Kearse, Jayron entered the league in 2016, drafted in the seventh round (No. 244 overall) by the Minnesota Vikings. Kearse (6-4, 215) would appear in 47 games for the Vikings, starting two, across the 2016-18 campaigns. He tallied 51 tackles, two pass breakups, and a half-sack while primarily contributing on special teams.

Kearse signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions in March 2020. That July, he was suspended three games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Upon return, he made 11 appearances and seven starts, posting 59 tackles, two PBUs, and one forced fumble before being waived on Dec. 28.

He finished last season as part of the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad. His contract expired on Jan. 25, sending him to the open market where he’s drawn little known interest.

Kearse was a three-year collegian; a first-team All-ACC choice in 2014 and 2015 and first-team All-American selection in 2015. He recorded 164 career tackles (116 solo, 11.5 for loss), 11 PBUs, seven interceptions, and three sacks with the Tigers. “At times he looked like a Round 1 talent,” reads his Bleacher Report scouting profile.

He’s an ideal single-high safety given his size and range in the middle of the field. His play speed is better than his track speed, and Kearse has shown he can track and cover the ball in quarters or half coverage.

An instinctive player, he has the skills to make the calls for a secondary. Kearse needs to be coached up in his effort and angles but has the tools to be a better pro than college player.

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Projected Role with Cowboys

Dallas’ 2021 secondary is shaping up as a sum of its parts under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who reportedly pushed the front office to prioritize safety during the league’s signing period.

The brain trust listened, and now Neal and Kearse — and possibly Kazee or Hooker, if imported — are slated to rotate with impressive 2020 incumbent Donovan Wilson. The Cowboys won’t re-sign former starter Xavier Woods, who remains on the unrestricted free-agent market.

Kearse will see snaps in the Cowboys’ back end but could be a more worthwhile contributor for John Fassel’s special teams unit.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL