The past couple of weeks have been interesting for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite having some cap space to wiggle around and bring in quality talent, the Cowboys have been extremely active only as window-shoppers but not as buyers. Players like Eric Weddle, Lamar Miller, and even Mario Williams were reported to have been serious targets for the Cowboys, but something has kept Dallas from truly making a huge signing. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely excited for what Cedric Thornton and Benson Mayowa can bring to this team, and to the defensive line in particular.
Despite their activity, the problem with what the Cowboys have done in free agency is quite simple. There are still a ton of huge holes on this roster and their stance in free agency hasn't exactly helped that cause. Because of that, the Cowboys are now shaping what will come in the draft and the idea of signing Alfred Morris to an incentive-laden contract could, and should, keep them from drafting Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick.
At 27 years old, Morris is still young in terms of a running back in today's NFL. Judging by what he's done in the past few seasons, Morris will not command a huge contract, which will be great for the Cowboys if they plan on adding another free agent (i.e.: Patrick Robinson) or if they'd like to extend one of their own (i.e.: Travis Frederick, Zack Martin).
The problem with Morris isn't his age or his health, it's the dip in production over the past couple of years. Morris' numbers have regressed in each of his four professional seasons. His worst professional season came last year, when the Washington Redskins had a capable offense behind Kirk Cousins. Below are his career stats. Notice the dip in production from each season.
But there are a few reasons why his career has taken a bad turn in recent years. With Robert Griffin III playing quarterback, Morris enjoyed a terrific rookie campaign. But after RGIII suffered multiple injuries, Morris' numbers suffered. On top of the quarterback play, the Redskins switched coordinators and offensive philosophies, leaving Morris running behind a young offensive line that was adjusting to a new offensive scheme.
Again, Morris' body doesn't have a ton of wear-and-tear on it and he's still relatively young for his position. Each year, we see the Cowboys benefit from giving a guy a chance when the rest of the league wouldn't. And each year, that player ends up producing for the team. The prime examples of that have been Darren McFadden, Rolando McClain, Jeremy Mincey, George Selvie, and even Laurent Robinson for those who can think back that far. Some may argue that McFadden is better than Morris, but the fact of the matter is that McFadden will likely not get extended past the 2016 season and he also isn't a better fit than Morris in the Cowboys' zone-blocking scheme.
The Cowboys are in a similar situation to last year where they could've drafted a running back in the first few rounds of the draft. Instead, Dallas went with the running back trio of McFadden, Joseph Randle, and Lance Dunbar. If the Cowboys were to sign Morris, the running back trio of Morris, McFadden, and Dunbar would likely keep the Cowboys from using one of their premium draft picks on a running back. Yes, the idea of Ezekiel Elliott behind this offensive line sounds so enticing, but with so many other needs on the roster that haven't been filled yet, the Cowboys would benefit more by using their draft pick elsewhere.