With limited options in front of them, the Dallas Cowboys are hoping to maximize their investment with a proven veteran.
After sitting out the massive spending round of free agency, it appears that the Dallas Cowboys are finally ready to dip their toes in the pool and entertain the idea of upgrading the roster.
One area it seems that Dallas is focused on is an attempt to bolster the running back position.
On Monday, the Cowboys hosted former Washington Redskins rusher Alfred Morris. On Tuesday, he signed a two-year deal with Dallas at a base salary of $3.5 million, with the ability to earn up to $5.5 million total through roster bonuses and incentives.
Currently, the depth chart has last year’s leading rusher, Darren McFadden who is coming off a season where he had the most carries he’s ever amassed as a pro. Following him would be Lance Dunbar, coming off yet another devastating knee injury. And then there’s Rod Smith, who has had a total of two carries in his pro career.
Obviously, that made getting someone else, like Morris, back there to share the load pretty imperative.
On one hand, I can see how Morris makes sense. Aside from former Houston Texans star Arian Foster, he was the most talented option available on the free agent market. He’s just 27 years old. You would also think he’d have some pretty decent motivation to perform well in at least two games a year going up against his former squad.
On the other hand however, is something one might call the “DeMarco Murray factor.”
You remember him, right?
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Just last season, the Cowboys chose to let Murray walk because they had a very specific financial number in mind for him and another team was willing to eclipse that number. Besides the money, the justification was largely based around his inordinate number of carries and the worry that he would break down sooner rather than later due to the high workload.
Well, shouldn’t that same justification be a cause for concern with Morris?
There is less than one year in difference of age (Murray is ten months older exactly). Since 2012, Murray has had 963 carries in the NFL to Morris’ 1,078. The previous year, Murray was a rookie with the Cowboys, rushing 164 times in his debut season. Morris was a senior in college, toting the rock 236 times. That’s a total of almost 200 more carries for Morris.
Another questionable omen for Morris? Both his total yards and yards per carry have gone down every season. Correct me if I’m wrong, but generally you’d like to see someone get better or at least maintain a consistent plateau.
For those who might want to put some of that blame on the failures of his previous team’s quarterback play, may I remind you Kirk Cousins set the Washington Redskins franchise record in passing yards while having the second highest touchdown total, passer rating and completion percentage.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys may not have had a better option in free agency at this point.
As I said before, choosing to pass on someone like running back Matt Forte means that anyone available in free agency is not without their warts.
Using the draft as an option to upgrade is always a good idea, except of course this year, when the depth at the position is shallow. After Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, any other option is a borderline second round choice at best. If you decide to draft Elliott, it may be an amazing selection but then you miss out on any real chance to upgrade your defensive line.
If you want to find a silver lining, Morris will not cost the Cowboys any more than $2.75 million a year. Add in the fact that he’ll be running behind a line featuring Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick and La’el Collins, and the opportunity for a renaissance is there.
Maybe this could be another McFadden-like investment that turns out positively. At this point in free agency, Cowboys fans will take any sort of good news.
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