We all heard the jokes. We saw all the latest memes. We all got more than a few jabs when our Dallas Cowboys signed former Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden to a two-year contract this week.
The former 2008 No. 4 overall pick, who will turn 28 in August, desperately needed a change of scenery. Make no mistake folks, McFadden could have held out for bigger money elsewhere, but he didn’t. He watched and waited for the DeMarco Murray saga to unfold, and he knew Dallas was where he wanted to be.
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First of all, look where he came from. Oakland was not exactly the model of consistency during his seven-year stay in the Bay Area. When you have five different head coaches in seven seasons, that screams chaos. No continuity. No consistency. The best record Oakland had during McFadden’s tenure was a mere 8-8, which Dallas was all too familiar with from 2011-2013.
On countless occasions, McFadden was pummeled by opposing defenders immediately upon being handed the ball. That’s what happens when your team has a porous offensive line and no outside weapons to scare off defenders. And without an offensive arsenal to make defenders honest, McFadden routinely faced eight and nine-man boxes, especially with a rookie quarterback in 2014. None of this will happen in Dallas.
In most cases, all the talent in the world could not make up for that kind of offensive futility. There was a reason McFadden was taken with the No. 4 overall pick in 2008. He was just never able to fully showcase it on a dreadful Raiders team.
So McFadden waited and then saw an opportunity present itself. He basically signed a contract that is gambling on his ability to stay healthy, which was the source of most of the jokes upon his signing.
His two-year contract (up to $5.85 million with a $200,000 signing bonus), is loaded with playing time incentives. This basically means unless McFadden stays on the field for Dallas, he does not see a big chunk of that cash. And frankly, truth be told, the contract he signed does not even guarantee him a roster spot. But chances are he will be in the plans for 2015.
McFadden saw the gaping holes these five opened up for DeMarco Murray. He saw the tight ends and wide receivers also getting in on the action in the running game. Most importantly, he saw what a dominant ground game can do for an offense…and a defense.
You see, while with Oakland, there was no Tony Romo. There was no Dez Bryant or Cole Beasley. There was no Jason Witten. There was no Jason Garrett. And there was certainly no “Great Wall of Dallas 2.0.”
Lets be honest, Darren McFadden was licking his chops to run behind this line. Dallas built this offensive line to not have to pay top dollar for a running back.
And let’s also be perfectly clear, McFadden will not be asked to fill the shoes of DeMarco Murray all by himself. Without Murray in the fold, Dallas will now likely take the platoon system in regards to the running back rotation. And that platoon will consist of Joseph Randle (assuming his legal troubles get squared away), the recently re-signed Ryan Williams and Lance Dunbar, probably another mid-round draft pick, and of course now McFadden.
So McFadden ends up on the team he rooted for growing up in Arkansas, the Dallas Cowboys (perhaps another reason he chose Dallas).
New team. New home. Newfound talent surrounding him. New expectations. And five new best friends.