Hamlin signing gives Cowboys potent safety pairing
Unrestricted free agent safety Ken Hamlin, who returned in 2006 from a devastating head injury that limited him to just six games with the Seattle Seahawks the previous season, on Friday reached a contract agreement with the Dallas Cowboys.
Hamlin, 26, will sign a one-year, $2.5 million contract. The four-year veteran, who spent his entire career with the Seahawks before going into the free agent market earlier this month, was one of the top unrestricted players remaining.
The former Arkansas standout, who visited earlier this week with Cowboys officials and coaches, was rated as the No. 22 player available in free agency by ESPN.com. He was one of only three players among the top 30 free agents still unsigned.
The addition of Hamlin, who will pair with Pro Bowl strong safety Roy Williams, should provide Dallas with one of the top safety tandems in the league. Hamlin will likely play free safety, which will enable Williams to play closer to the line of scrimmage. That will permit the Cowboys to better camouflage Williams' deficiencies in pass coverage.
"Definitely, it will let Roy do his thing," Hamlin said.
Locating a viable free safety, and a solid complement to the physical Williams, has been a problem for the Cowboys. The team began last season with rookie Pat Watkins playing the position, then switched to Keith Davis, who started all 16 games in 2005.
Hamlin isn't a pure ballhawk, but possesses more free safety-type attributes than Williams, and can play the middle of the field, which should improve the Dallas coverage scheme.
A second-round choice in the 2003 draft, Hamlin has 298 tackles, eight interceptions, 22 passes defensed, four sacks, four forced fumbles and one recovery in 54 games. In 2005, he was involved in a fight outside a Seattle night spot and suffered a fractured skull and other head injuries that forced him onto the non-football injury list after just six games. Hamlin returned to start all 16 games in 2006 and recorded a career-best 96 tackles, along with three interceptions, eight passes defensed, and two sacks.
In addition to the Cowboys, he was pursued by New Orleans, but clearly wanted to sign with Dallas after visiting there this week.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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