Dallas Cowboys sign former Bills safety Robert Blanton

Sep 1, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive back Robert Blanton (26) smiles before the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Lions win 31-0. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

FRISCO — The Dallas Cowboys have shored up their lacking safety position with the signing of Robert Blanton.

Jason Bernstein, Blanton’s agent, announced the move Thursday, just a week before the NFL draft in Philadelphia.

Blanton last played with the Buffalo Bills last year and appeared in 10 games for the club and started two games. The former fifth-round pick for the Minnesota Vikings recorded 28 tackles for Buffalo while playing a predominantly special teams role.

The Notre Dame product started out his career in Minnesota under head coach Leslie Frazier. For the first two seasons, Blanton played in Frazier’s Tampa-2 system, the very same system that the Cowboys run under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Blanton played 29 games out of a possible 32 and made 67 tackles.

Blanton saw an increased role in 2014 with the arrival of new head coach Mike Zimmer, a former Dallas defensive coordinator from 2000-06 and an assistant coach with the squad going back to 1994. The 6-1, 200-pound safety started 13 games for the Vikings and played in 15 total while racking up 105 tackles, forcing a fumble, and intercepting a pass. Blanton returned in 2015 and played all 16 games but only started one of them as he defended three passes and made 27 tackles.

The Cowboys lost safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox to free agency with the former signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the latter ending up with Florida’s western coast team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, Jameill Showers, and Byron Jones were the only safeties on the Cowboys roster after free agent signings depleted their safeties room. The early favorite to start alongside Jones on the back end is the undrafted fifth-year veteran Heath.

“I think if you turn on the tape and watch that there are a lot of people who wonder why isn’t that guy starting, you know, in terms of making plays on the ball and that type of thing,” said Chief Operating Officer Stephen Jones. “Obviously we feel good about what Jeff can do. At the same time, he obviously knows he’s going to have to compete.”

Dallas certainly sees Blanton as “the right guy” for the position. Jones said at the NFL owners meetings in March the club would be judicious about any free agent signings going forward. The signing of Blanton points to what the club believes they can get out of him.

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