With the news of Alfred Morris joining the Cowboys, there have been a few different narratives floating around as it pertains to how the team views the running back situation. Some fans who were on the Zeke train now feel that their draft hopes have been derailed. Others think that adding Morris to the team offers up very little in the way of an improvement to the running back position. So what gives? What does the Cowboys latest signing actually mean for this team in the upcoming season?
Hypothesis: With the Morris signing, we can finally put to rest all this Ezekiel Elliott talk
The addition of Morris changes nothing. If the Cowboys were interested in Zeke last week, they are still interested in him.
The Cowboys didn't draft a running back last season, but that doesn't mean they weren't looking. It just never worked out. In the early part of the draft, there were just other more attractive selections available. After a few rounds went by, there was no longer a running back out there that presented themselves as an upgrade to what the Cowboys already had.
Elliott is extremely talented and would be a significant upgrade to the running back positions for the Cowboys. It's all going to come down to how the team views his talent in relation to the other draft options. If he's the most talented player on their board when it's time to make their selecting, he'll be the guy. Morris or no Morris.
Hypothesis: Morris isn't much better than McFadden
Darren McFadden was nothing special when he signed a two-year deal last off-season. But you don't have to be special to have success running behind the Cowboys offensive line. Despite struggling for most of his career in Oakland, McFadden turned in the 4th highest rushing total of the 2015 season.
Alfred Morris is also nothing special. He doesn't have great speed or the shiftiness to elude tacklers. Morris is about as bland of a runner as you'll find. But Morris has been a successful running back in this league in the way he reads his blocks and the straight line running ability to get through the lane quickly. He won't break any ankles and defenders will catch him from behind, but if you are looking for a back who can keep the chains moving in a zone blocking scheme - he's your guy.
From a talent perspective, he's not much of an upgrade from McFadden. Why the Cowboys would invest in a running back that is similar to one they already have might seem confusing, but there are a couple good reasons for it.
Reason 1 - he's super cheap. A 27 year-old, two-time Pro Bowl running back only set the Cowboys back $1.75 million per year.
Reason 2 - he's an insurance policy. Remember last season when fans would say, "McFadden would be great if he could stay healthy." Well, those fans were right. McFadden stayed healthy and look what he did. But that doesn't make us feel any easier about his health going forward. In fact, he's about due for another injury. With the addition of Morris, fans don't have to carry that worry with them. And the former Redskins running back has proven to be very reliable as he's played in all 64 games of his NFL career.
If nothing else, the Cowboys bought themselves a little extra protection to make sure the running game will remain intact should something happen to McFadden. He does have the upside to put together 1,500+ yards in this offense if he gets a heavy workload throughout the season.
Hypothesis: The Cowboys have a full house at the running back position
Verdict: False. There's always room for one more
Last year, the Cowboys went into training camp with four running backs - Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar, and Ryan Williams. The Cowboys let go of Williams before the season started as he was never able to get himself healthy. They replaced him with Christine Michael after a trade with Seattle. Of all these guys, only McFadden was carrying the ball in the season finale. A lot of things can change and the Cowboys are always looking for ways to strengthen the roster.
And as great as McFadden played last year, the Cowboys aren't married to him. He's only a $500,000 dead money cap hit so the Cowboys could easily get away from him if they wanted.
Hypothesis: If the Cowboys don't draft a running back early, then it's pointless to waste a pick on one later
The Cowboys have achieved their free agency goal at the running back position. They will enter the 2016 season with solid backs. While a fresh-legged rookie running back would fit in nicely as the team's number four back, there is no guarantee that would happen. Just like last year, the back would have to offer up something they don't already have. Going through the checklist, what do the Cowboys have?
- Three-down back (McFadden)
- Short yardage back (Morris)
- Speedy, change-of-pace, receiving back (Dunbar)
It looks like they got a lot of things covered, but both McFadden and Dunbar are only under contract for one more season. The Cowboys need to get someone locked down for the future. Additionally, Dunbar is a wild card as he is coming off a knee injury so Dallas might want to think about adding some wheels to the committee. And he doesn't have to be a three down back to have a role on this team. The Cowboys could target a specialist like Alabama's, Kenyan Drake in the later rounds. This would give them someone with breakaway speed and who could also be a candidate to return kickoffs.
It never hurts to add a little explosiveness to your team.
What do you think about Morris joining the Cowboys? Do you think this changes anything for Dallas?