Cowboys To Move Markquese Bell Back To Safety

A collegiate safety, Markquese Bell joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2022 and played in just 22 defensive snaps in his rookie season. In 2023, he was moved to linebacker and given a much larger workload, and he acquitted himself rather nicely.

In 17 games (eight starts) last year, Bell racked up 94 total tackles to go along with four passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He also fared well in the eyes of the advanced metrics, with Pro Football Focus assigning him a 76.8 overall grade that ranked 18th out of 74 qualified players. His 83.5 coverage grade, perhaps a function of his safety background, was the fifth-highest mark among his LB peers.

Former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn left Dallas to become the Commanders’ head coach this offseason, and his replacement, Mike Zimmer, will be moving Bell back to his natural safety position, as David Moore of the Dallas Morning News confirms. Zimmer prefers to have good size at the linebacker spots, and Bell — who is listed at 205 pounds — does not offer that. Plus, despite his PFF rankings, Bell’s lack of size and lack of experience as an LB were exposed at times last season, including the Cowboys’ stunning playoff ouster at the hands of the Packers.

Dallas has already reunited Zimmer with former Vikings charge Eric Kendricks, who will operate alongside Damone Clark and DeMarvion Overshown. Clark started all 17 games for Dallas in 2023 and compiled 109 tackles, though the 2022 fifth-rounder sometimes struggled with the increased responsibilities. Overshown, a 2023 third-rounder, had a promising camp and was expected to take on a meaningful role as a rookie, but a preseason ACL tear kept him off the field for the entirety of the campaign.

Despite Kendricks’ veteran presence and the upside of Clark and Overshown, Moore still believes that the linebacker unit is the weak link of the Dallas defense. The fact that the Cowboys are moving Bell out of that group is further indication that they plan to select an LB in the early stages of the upcoming draft. We recently heard that the club does not plan to use its first-round choice on the position, but in Moore’s estimation, a Day 2 selection would be more than defensible.

The team scheduled “30” visits with Michigan’s Junior Colson and Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper, and Moore names Ohio State’s Tommy Eichenberg and Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr.  as other potential targets. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, meanwhile, hears that the Cowboys “really like” NC State prospect Payton Wilson (subscription required).

Dallas has starting safeties Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson on lucrative multi-year pacts; Hooker’s deal runs through 2026, while Wilson is under club control through 2025. Therefore, Bell may not be a starting safety, but given his relative success last season, Zimmer should find a way to get him on the field often.

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