The Cowboys will face some interesting decisions in free agency in 2013. Mike Jenkins is currently holding out from the voluntary workouts and has apparently asked for a trade. It is beginning to look like the Cowboys won't offer him a new contract and Jenkins will most likely move on to another team next season. Anthony Spencer received the franchise tag during the offseason, but he will be a free agent next season. Spencer's future with the team will probably be determined by his play in 2012.
One 2013 free agent that is flying under the radar is running back Felix Jones. Jones has never lived up to the hype that surrounded him during his college career in Arkansas. Felix teamed up with Darren McFadden and the combination was one of the most feared running back tandems in college football.
The 2008 running back class was rich in talent and produced some quality NFL players. We can debate back and forth about who the Cowboys should have drafted, but the 2008 draft has come and gone. I have gone on record and stated that compared to the other running backs from his class, Felix is basically a bust. I love his talent, but he has had trouble staying healthy and giving us consistent production.
Felix will have one more opportunity to show the Cowboys that he can be the play making running back that they had hoped for when they drafted him in 2008. It's sad to think about, but there is a very strong possibility that we could lose both of our 2008 first-round draft picks next season. When I found out we landed Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins I was absolutely thrilled with that haul. Jamaal Charles and Kenny Phillips were my preferred targets that year, but the combination of Jones and Jenkins was very exciting.
Every year we hope this is the season that Jones stays healthy and produces consistently. During the pre-season last year, Felix looked like he was going to be the breakout running back of 2011. He was running the football with authority, but also displayed the speed and burst we have all become familiar with. Felix is a dynamic athlete with the ability to take a run to the house at any given time, but has also developed as a physical runner. When watching tape on him, you notice the burst he has, but his willingness to be physical also stands out.
In his four years with the Cowboys, Jones has missed 16 games due to various injuries. The injuries are preventing Felix from becoming an consistent player. A big deal has been made about his weight and he is currently listed at 217 pounds on the mothership. Felix weighed in at 207 pounds at the 2008 NFL Combine. He actually is built very well and possesses a lean muscular frame. The Cowboys shouldn't attempt to mess with his weight, let him play at the weight he feels most comfortable with.
The production needs to start coming more consistently from him, especially in the touchdown department. He only has 9 touchdowns in his career, I am sorry but that is not going to cut it. As of right now, Felix has a career average of 5.1 yard per carry, which is pretty solid. He has never had over 1,000 yards rushing in his career either. Last season he had a career high five fumbles, he also needs to do a better job of protecting the football. What I would like to see from Felix is more touchdowns and more rushing yards.
Emmitt Smith weighed in on the running back situation recently and commented on how important Jones is to the offense.
"Then when you look at the running back core, they have two good guys, very good guys. And either one of them can shoulder the load or shoulder the burden at any point and time. Now, do we need Felix Jones to step up? Because we know that DeMarco Murray can make it happen. We need Felix to step up a little bit. That's a true statement."
I would love to see the Cowboys do a better job of getting Felix in space. OCC had a great article about this, so be sure to check this out if you haven't already.
Related: Looking For The Space Cowboy
The perfect role for him would be as a Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles type of weapon that is lined up all over the field. DeMarco Murray is just a fantastic talent that does everything well. It may be more ideal to use Murray as the workhorse type of running back and rotate Felix in. The two are very talented, but they must stay healthy. Injuries will be the only thing that will hold these two back from being one of the best running back tandems in the NFL.
"Felix is not involved with any of these OTAs right now," Garrett said Wednesday. "He's getting himself back from the shoulder. He's done a good job within the parameters our medical staff has given him. He looks in good shape. He can't catch a ball yet, so that's an issue, but he's running routes on air and the quarterback's not throwing to him. He's doing things like that."
"All indications are it's the kind of injury that should have a pretty clean recovery," Garrett said. "It seems like it's a simple surgery and, saying that, everyone understands there's no such thing as a simple surgery. But we are relatively optimistic about the doctors going in and fixing that thing and him being back fairly quickly and him being ready to go on Day 1 of training camp."
At the end of the day, all Felix has to do is stay on the field and be more consistent. If he can do that, then it will become a hard decision for the front office to make on whether to re-sign him or move on from Jones in 2013. I don't know what the price tag would be for Felix, but if the price was right they should re-sign him. I will be rooting for him to finally put it all together and have that breakout season. Just stay healthy Felix. Please.