Cowboys projected to repeat Ezekiel Elliott disaster in free agency

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The Dallas Cowboys fan base is split in terms of how the team should manage the running back position this offseason. Barring a surprise, the general consensus is that Tony Pollard, an unrestricted free agent, won't be back with the Cowboys.

Pollard could always return on a short-term deal, but what seemingly everyone agrees on is that Dallas shouldn't pay a premium for a running back. They learned the hard way with Ezekiel Elliott's lofty extension, which is still denting their salary cap, and again with Pollard's $10.01 million franchise tag last year.

Perhaps it's that track record that has led multiple NFL writers to believe the Cowboys will once again splurge on a running back. Titans star Derrick Henry and Giants phenom Saquon Barkley are two high-profile names that might sound familiar, but a new name has entered the picture with free agency on the horizon.

The folks over at ESPN compiled predictions for the top 50 NFL free agents this offseason and mocked Josh Jacobs to the Cowboys.

Cowboys projected to repeat Ezekiel Elliott disaster in free agency with Josh Jacobs

"With the expectation Tony Pollard does not return to Dallas, the Cowboys could pivot to Jacobs. He has been a volume grinder for the Raiders, with the low pad level to finish runs and the quickness to make defenders miss. Jacobs, who led the NFL in rushing in 2022, could also be utilized as a receiving option for Dak Prescott on swings, screens and unders."

With all due respect to Jacobs, who won the rushing title just two years ago, he'd be a disaster signing for the Cowboys. The newly-turned 26-year-old has been the Raiders bellcow for five seasons, so there's a lot of wear and tear on his tires.

After a banner year in 2022 when he rushed 340 times (!) for 1,653 yards and 12 touchdowns, Jacobs crashed back down to earth this season. His 70.1 rushing grade ranked 31 among 35 backs with 150 or more carries, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He also ranked last in rushing yards after contact per attempt and 31st in missed tackles forced.

Granted, Jacobs' efficiency improved after Antonio Pierce replaced Josh McDaniels as head coach, but those are pretty damning numbers regardless.

The stage is set for Jacobs to have a bounce back year, but coming off playing on the franchise tag in 2023 it stands to reason Jacobs will command $10 million annually in free agency. Sure enough, Spotrac has his market value at $10.6 million per year.

Of the last six Super Bowl champions, no team had a running back consume more than 1.2% of its salary cap. The Cowboys have finally reset the money at the position. Paying top-dollar for a position whose market has cratered in recent years would be a disaster waiting to happen.

Derrick Henry is maybe the lone exception lone exception in terms of RBs the Cowboys should spend on in pursuit of a Super Bow. Even then, many fans would rather if Dallas found a starter in the upcoming draft.

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