The Dallas Cowboys will go into training camp later this month with major questions surrounding their starting running back position. With the exodus of the NFL’s leading rusher, former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, to the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency earlier this offseason, Dallas will look to backs Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, Ryan Williams and Lache Seastrunk to compete for that starting role.
But according to some unnamed league executives, the Cowboys could look to add another veteran running back to the mix: former New York Jets’ back Chris Johnson.
"“Several other execs brought up Dallas as a possible destination (for Johnson), with the Cowboys currently hoping that a trio of backs will replace the elite production of DeMarco Murray,” CBS Sport’s NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote in an article on Friday. “If a team like Baltimore or Kansas City were to lose their starting running back, I’d keep an eye on both as landing spots for Johnson. Denver could make sense over time and New England as well.”"
This is not the first time Johnson’s name has been mentioned in association with the Cowboys. TMZ Sports recorded an impromptu interview with the 29-year old free agent back in May where he stated he wanted to play for the Cowboys. But who wouldn’t after seeing Dallas’ talented and young offensive line open massive running lanes for Murray last season?
In an interview with the DallasCowboys.com, the team’s executive vice president, Stephen Jones, admitted the franchise have some interest in the former first round pick (2008).
"“We haven’t visited with Chris, and we can’t talk about him because he’s a free agent. But right now we’re looking at the guys that we have on our roster,” Jones revealed in early May. “He is somebody that is on a short list of ours that we think could ultimately come in and do some good things for us if we asked him to. But I wouldn’t say it’s a priority right now.”"
Johnson is having to overcome several different obstacles as a free agent looking for his next NFL gig. The first being that he is on the edge of turning 30-years old, which tends to signal a major decline in production for most professional running backs.
Also, a lackluster season with the Jets last season, where the veteran was unable to record at least 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his seven-year career, hasn’t helped his cause either. Johnson’s also recovering from gunshot wombs in the right shoulder following a random drive-by shooting in March. His rehabilitation included six weeks of bed rest.
Despite the negatives, Johnson has still reportedly drawn interest from several different NFL teams this offseason. Going into his eighth-season as a professional, CJ2K has only missed one game in his entire career. So, durability isn’t an issue as long as his shoulder passes medical checks. And though he’s not the same player who ran a record-setting 4.24 forty yard dash at the Scouting Combine in 2008, Johnson is likely still one of the fastest veteran running backs available in free agency.
Although known more for his inconsistency, Johnson has surprisingly consistent numbers. Rushing for at least 1,000+ yards for each of his first six seasons, the former Tennessee Titans star peaked in his second year recording 2,006 yards on the ground while scoring 14 touchdowns. Last year, with the Jets, Johnson rushed for only 663 yards and a single score off of the lowest attempts total of his career, 155.
All indications are the Cowboys want to evaluate what they have on their current roster first during training camp before even considering the possibility of adding another running back.