After being released by the Philadelphia Eagles, could running back Ryan Mathews be a potential replacement for the Dallas Cowboys suspended Ezekiel Elliott?
Yeah, I get it. It seems like every big name player that is thrown into free agency always gets attached to the Dallas Cowboys as a possible target. And a great majority of the time, the player, the Cowboys or both pass and nothing ever happens.
In the case of the recently released Ryan Mathews, the Cowboys have passed before…and they’ll likely will pass again. The former San Diego Chargers running back first hit Dallas’ radar back in 2015 as a free agent. That’s back when Dallas lost the league’s leading rusher at the time, DeMarco Murray, to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason. Ironically, the Eagles inked Mathews as well.
Both struggled early in Philadelphia, as the problems that plagued Mathews in San Diego followed him to the City of Brotherly Love. A 2010 first round pick out of San Diego State, the now 29-year old running back has always struggled in three areas: Durability, consistency and fumbles.
During his seven year career, Mathews has only played a full-16 game season once. Out of a possible 112 games, the veteran runner has missed a total of 26 contests. And he’s only rushed for 1,000+ yards in a season twice in that same span.
One particular area of concern when it comes to Mathews is his ability to hold on to the ball. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he has lost 12 fumbles on running plays since entering the league. Only the longtime San Francisco 49ers’ running back Frank Gore has recorded more (14). But here’s the kicker: Mathews has 613 fewer rushing attempts than Gore!
Officially, Mathews has fumbled the ball a whopping 21 times. He’s put the ball on the ground six times in the past two seasons in Philly alone.
Those are all the reasons not to sign Mathews. But there are positives to consider.
First, Ryan has had success in this league. He made the Pro Bowl in 2011 after posting 1,097 rushing yards and six touchdowns for the Chargers. Mathews actually had a better season two years later, recording a career-high 1,255 rushing yards and seven total scores.
Despite only starting in eight games last year, Mathews did rush for 661 yards and eight touchdowns for the Eagles. He’ll turn 30 in October.
Now here’s the question of the day: Do the Dallas Cowboys really need Ryan Mathews? Well, that depends. How do you feel about the Cowboys current depth chart at the position?
Both veteran running backs Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris have had success in the NFL as well. And both Rod Smith and Ronnie Hillman are solid young runners with upside. What would Dallas have to gain by bringing in someone like Mathews?
With starting running back and the league’s reigning rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott likely to miss a good portion of the season due to his recent suspension, Dallas will look to their depth chart to carry the load. Certainly some combination of McFadden and Morris can do that in Dallas.
If the Cowboys decide Mathews may be better than either one of their veterans, I could see them kicking the tires on the new free agent. Dallas certainly knows the player having faced him as a member of their divisional foes, the Eagles, for the past two seasons. And Mathews would certainly welcome playing behind Dallas’ dominate offensive line.
At the end of the day, I believe a possible Ryan Mathews’ signing comes down to how the Dallas Cowboys feel about Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris. And so far, indications appear to be that the team believes both will do a great job filling in until Ezekiel Elliott’s return.