SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Free agent Abram Elam agreed to a one-year deal Thursday with the Cowboys, giving new Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan a safety that played for him the past two seasons.
Elam will get $2.5 million for one season, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had not officially announced the deal with the unrestricted free agent before its scheduled practice Thursday night.
The deal for Elam came a day after unrestricted free agent safety Gerald Sensabaugh got a similar contract to remain with the Cowboys.
“He’s smart, he’s consistent, he’s conservative in his play style. We don’t like to give up the big home runs. He’s that safety blanket back there,” Ryan said of Elam after the team’s walkthrough Thursday morning. “He understands what we’re looking for, he understands why we call things and when we call them.”
While playing the past two seasons in Cleveland for Ryan, Elam started 31 of 32 games. He had 135 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions with the Browns.
Elam began his NFL career with Dallas in 2006 as primarily a special teams player for 15 games. He then played two seasons with the New York Jets before going to Cleveland.
“We’re excited about Abe. … He’s a veteran safety who’s played in this scheme and played in this league, a lot of starts, a lot of snaps,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s not one of those guys who wows you necessarily, but he’s the kind of guy you want playing safety for you. He’s a great communicator, he understands what we want to do on the defensive side of the ball and he’s able to communicate that to other people really quickly.”
The addition of Elam and re-signing of Sensabaugh accomplished one of the team’s goals to sign two safeties. The Cowboys lost out last week in their pursuit of free agent safety Nnamdi Asomugha, who took a $60 million, five-year deal from NFC East rival Philadelphia.
Cowboys secondary coach Dave Campo saw plenty of Elam while watching film of Ryan’s defense at Cleveland during the offseason.
“He really understands the scheme and I think that’s really important for our safeties. They have to run the scheme because they run the defense along with the linebackers, so he brings that to the table right from the very beginning,” Campo said. “Him not being here is not as drastic for him because he already knows the terminology.”