The Best Cowboys Safeties Of All-Time

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best cowboys safeties

When you think back on the two Dallas Cowboys teams that won Super Bowls in the 1970s, the players that come to mind are Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett. Here, we are ranking our best Cowboys safeties of all-time

Now reminisce on the teams that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy three times in the 1990s. I bet you thought of the Triplets: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

Each of those players will forever be remembered as legends to Cowboys fans. So it’s easy to forget how dominant Dallas’ defenses were back in the day.

Today, we’re giving them the shine they deserve by ranking the five best safeties in Cowboys history. Not all of them were champions, but the ones that didn’t reach those heights still earned the right to be remembered for dominant careers.

5. Roy Williams

The Cowboys drafted Williams eighth overall in 2002 out of Oklahoma. He lived up to the hype to start his career but went south in the end. But when Williams was at his best, he was one the best safeties of his era.

Williams played seven seasons in Dallas, making one All-Pro team and five Pro Bowls. He regularly laid big hits on receivers and was the reason for the NFL implementing horse collar tackle penalties.

Williams could’ve been an all-time great Cowboys player if he continued on the trajectory fans expected from his early seasons.

4. Charlie Waters

Waters was a bit undersized for an NFL safety at only 193 pounds. But he didn’t let his size prevent him from achieving great things in 11 seasons with the Cowboys.

Waters played FS as a rookie and then moved to CB for four seasons. He struggled making the transition, but blossomed when the Cowboys moved him to SS in 1975. 

Waters went on to make three Pro Bowls after the switch. He even missed the entire 1979 season with a knee injury, but bounced back with five interceptions the following year. Waters was nothing if not persevering. 

His 41 career interceptions is the third-most in Cowboys history.

3. Cliff Harris

Harris played at Ouachita Baptist University. He’s one of only seven NFL players to come from the school in Arkansas.

After college, Harris signed with Dallas in 1970 as an undrafted free agent, and later formed an amazing safety pairing with Waters.

Harris was known as a hard-hitter on the Cowboys Doomsday Defense. He’s one of only three safeties in the Cowboys Ring of Honor.

Harris won two Super Bowls with Dallas, along with three All-Pros and six Pro Bowls. His 29 career interceptions rank ninth in franchise history, and helped him earn a bust at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

2. Mel Renfro

Not only is Renfro on our list of greatest Cowboys safeties, he also earned a spot in our ranking of the franchise’s best cornerbacks. The Houston native played FS in his first six seasons, and switched to CB for his last eight years. 

Renfro was voted into the Pro Bowl every season he lined up at FS, and snagged 31 interceptions. From just his time playing that position, he’d rank ninth in Cowboys history in interceptions. Add the picks he got at CB, and he owns the franchise record.

A lot of people look back at Renfro’s time in Dallas and think of him as a CB, but the Hall of Famer’s versatility earned him high regard on this list.

1. Darren Woodson

While Aikman was calling the shots offensively for the legendary 1990s Cowboys teams, Woodson was the undisputed leader of the defense.

The former Arizona State Sun Devil was actually a linebacker in college. But when Dallas selected Woodson in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft, they thought his blazing speed would better suit him as a safety in the pros.

That was clearly the correct move, as Woodson went on to be a three-time All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion.
In 12 seasons, Woodson racked up 1,350 tackles, 23 interceptions and 11 sacks. Recently, he was named as a semifinalist to make the Hall of Fame’s 2023 class; an accolade that is long overdue.

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