The Dallas Cowboys four-year contract with strong safety J.J. Wilcox has expired. The Cowboys need to make re-signing him one of their top priorities of the offseason.
Wilcox was the backup for the Cowboys in 2016. He started four games when starter Barry Church was injured. Church's contract is also up but the Cowboys need to focus on Wilcox. He is the future at strong safety.
Championship franchises in the NFL build their teams through the draft. The Cowboys drafted Wilcox in 2013 with a third-round pick. They drafted Byron Jones with their first-round pick in 2015.
The Cowboys have a young, talented safety tandem in Wilcox and Jones. Church is a very good strong safety, but he cost the Cowboys $4.75 million in 2016. They paid Wilcox $1.8 million to be Church's backup.
The Cowboys could sign Wilcox for $3 million per year and get younger at the position while saving money. You use premium picks in the NFL draft to produce starters. Wilcox was drafted with a premium pick in the top-three rounds.
He is a good player who has produced five interceptions and caused two fumbles in his 58 games played. Wilcox is about to enter the prime of his career and it is time for the Cowboys to commit to him.
Some have suggested that the Cowboys let Wilcox go and use their first-round pick in the 2017 draft on safety Justin Evans from Texas A&M. Evans is an elite prospect who will make a great safety for some NFL team.
The question is whether the Cowboys should use their first pick on the draft on the secondary. The Cowboys' defense ranked 13th in the league in sacks in 2016 with 36 on the season. That is solid, but they do not have a single pass rusher that opponents need to account for.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has done an exceptional job getting the most out of the talent available. The Cowboys' defense plays great than the sum of their parts. They ranked No. 5 in the NFL in 2016 allowing only 19.1 points per game. The defense accomplished that feat without a single player with more than five sacks.
The Cowboys gave up 355 passing yards and two touchdown passes to Aaron Rodgers in their 34-31 playoff loss to Green Bay. They sacked Rodgers three times but all three sacks came from the secondary.
The biggest need the Cowboys have on their team is a pass-rusher that the opposing team has to gameplan for. They need a defensive end who is a threat to get 10 sacks per season. That is what the need to find in the first round of the 2017 draft, not another young safety.
The NFL has become a passing league and you cannot win games if you cannot make opposing quarterback uncomfortable. The Cowboys need to re-sign Wilcox and spend the rest of their offseason trying to improve their pass rush.