Reese Returns For Insurance At Free Safety
By Mickey Spagnola
June 3, 2005, 3:37 PM (CDT)
IRVING, Texas -
You know that insurance policy the Cowboys have been shopping for at free safety?
Consider it bought, the Cowboys on Friday signing the all-too-familiar Izell Reese to a one-year deal, and will have him at The Ranch working by Monday.
Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells has been a tad uneasy with the candidates at the free safety position, and did say last weekend that there was a possibility the Cowboys would bring in a veteran with some starting experience.
So by signing Reese to a one-year minimum deal, $665,000, and only having to pay the free agent a $25,000 signing bonus, the Cowboys now have the best of both worlds. They have a seven-year veteran who has started 48 games during his NFL career - 33 the past three seasons - but his relatively minor cap charge does not preclude the possibility of a Keith Davis or Lynn Scott or rookie Justin Beriault from still winning the starting job during training camp. Reese will only count $480,000 against the cap since he's a seven-year veteran and only signed a minimum deal.
Reese, drafted by the Cowboys in the sixth round of the 1998 draft out of Alabama-Birmingham, has spent the past two seasons in Buffalo, where he started 18 games over the past two seasons, including the opening nine in 2004 before an injury left him inactive for the final seven games. Reese concluded both of his seasons in Buffalo on injured reserve, missing the final two games in 2003 with a torn calf muscle.
The Cowboys also on Friday did a little roster cleansing, releasing six players, including, second-year safety Clint Finley and five rookie free agents: Deep snapper Marlon Tickles, offensive tackle Harvey Dahl, Baylor fullback Jonathon Evans, safety Dominque Price and tight end Duncan Reid.
While Reese started 18 games during his four seasons in Dallas (1998-2001), he would become a full-time starter for the Denver Broncos in 2002, starting 15 games. He would take over the starting free safety job in Buffalo five games into the 2003 season and then did start the first nine games for the Bills in 2004.
Not only is Reese a rangy cover safety, but he also is a strong special teams player, which was the reason he was able to stick with the Cowboys in 1998. The 31-year-old Reese led the Cowboys his rookie season with 21 special teams tackles - 16 of those coming in the final eight games of the season.
Reese would then start four games in 1999, two for the injured George Teague and two for the injured Darren Woodson. The Cowboys were using Reese as a nickel safety, bringing him in at safety when Woodson would move into the slot to cover receivers. Reese, though, landed on injured reserve for the second half of the season, needing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.
The 2000 season was somewhat of a breakthrough season in the NFL for Reese, starting the final seven games of the season for the injured Teague, yet once again leading the Cowboys in special teams tackles.
And in 2001, with trouble at cornerback, the Cowboys attempted to convert Reese into a corner, and he did start the first three games at cornerback before the Cowboys gave up on the experiment. He would return to the safety spot in the nickel packages as Kareem Larrimore and then Duane Hawthorne took over at the left cornerback spot.
So after finishing their only full-team mini-camp this past weekend and the four on-field training days this week, the Cowboys at least have a starting free safety candidate with experience. Because up until signing Reese, Scott was the only candidate with starting experience, having started nine of the final 10 games in 2004.
Parcells, though still hasn't given up on the idea of giving Davis a chance to start, although appeared a tad hesitant because that would mean losing his best special teams player on a full-time basis. But he admitted Davis had a “knock for getting to the ball,” and wanted to explore that possibility. Parcells also said cornerback Pete Hunter could be used as a nickel safety.
And while those all are still possibilities, at least he now knows he does have someone capable of starting for him.