Will it be safety first for the Cowboys in April? Some mock drafts had the Cowboys selecting Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro before Monday when Dallas released free safety Gerald Sensabugh, who started 60 games in his four seasons with the Cowboys.
Vaccaro is the top-rated safety in the draft. Though historically there has not been a high premium on using high picks on the position -- only five safeties have been selected in the first round in the past seven drafts -- the University of Texas product believes his versatility makes him special.
"I played both safeties, strong and free. I played nickel. I played dime. In some instances, I played corner," said Vaccaro, who has expressed his desire for the Cowboys to draft him 18th.
Vaccaro will visit the Cowboys before the draft, but the position is a deep one. Florida International's Jonathan Cyprien, Florida's Matt Elam and LSU's Eric Reid could be second-round targets.
The draft is probably a better option than free agency, where Dallas has little money and Charles Woodson and Ed Reed have seen their best days. (The Bills used the franchise tag on Jairus Byrd, and Atlanta's William Moore and San Francisco's Dashon Golden will be too costly if their teams can't work out long-term deals and they hit the open market.)
The safety position is one of the most important in Monte Kiffin's Tampa Two scheme. With the Bucs, Kiffin had perennial Pro Bowler John Lynch at safety.
Sensabaugh didn't make a big enough impact for the Cowboys to keep him with only eight interceptions, including none last season, 24 defensed passes and three forced fumbles in his four seasons. The Cowboys saved $1.4 million by releasing him.
Though the Cowboys are thin at the position, they do have faith that Barry Church can return from a torn Achilles' tendon he suffered in Week 3 and that Matt Johnson can develop into the player they think he can be. Johnson missed his entire rookie season with hamstring and back injuries, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said recently that Johnson was worth the fourth-round pick they spent on him last season.
Danny McCray is a restricted free agent, but the Cowboys discovered last year after Church was injured that McCray is better suited as a special teams player. Charlie Peprah and Eric Frampton, both of whom started games at safety last season, are free agents.
-- Charean Williams