During the OTAs and minicamp for the Dallas Cowboys, every bit of information was pounced on by fans and the media alike. As with most teams, things were generally shaded with optimism as rookies blended with the veterans for the first time. The new players got a chance to make an impression, and in Dallas, veterans like Jeff Heath, Orlando Scandrick,and Brice Butler made it clear they weren’t going to give up their roster spots without a real fight.
But for one player, the silence was deafening. If you looked for any mention of running back Alfred Morris, you found basically nothing.
It is very early. We really won’t see true clarity of how the roster is shaping up until well into training camp and the preseason. Still, it is hard to not think that there is a definite hint in the apparent lack of involvement for Morris. He is facing a significant chance of being cut.
Morris was the number two running back to start last season, but seemed to drop back a spot when the Cowboys activated Darren McFadden once he had recovered from a freak elbow injury during the 2016 offseason. With Ezekiel Elliott storming to the rushing title, no other back was going to make much of a splash, but Morris’ season total of 243 rushing yards was noticeably paltry. Part of the problem is that Morris is more a grinder who has to get into a rhythm than someone who can come in and make a sudden impact. With Elliott as the lead back, there just was no real opportunity for him to get on track in games. He also is not a special teams contributor, so all he gave the team was an emergency replacement, a role in which the coaches apparently trusted McFadden more.
Although the media only saw half the offseason practices, there was evidence that Morris was giving up snaps to Rod Smith, who can play as either a halfback or a fullback, and UDFA Jahad Thomas. They both would be expected to contribute on teams as well. Both are younger than Morris, something the Cowboys also value.
Cutting Morris would result in a net gain of $1,637,500 in cap space per Over the Cap. That just adds another reason why he would be very easy to waive.
This may be very premature, but it is interesting that no other veteran was as invisible as Morris, except those who were held out due to some kind of past or present injury. OTAs and minicamp are a time for trying things out, and the team may have elected to invest the snaps not going to Elliott and McFadden in trying to see if Rod Smith could become a two position asset. But if that was seen as successful, it just puts more pressure on Morris. With the depth at other positions, finding a way to get by with one less running back on the 53 is very attractive.
Morris will probably have a chance to make a case for himself in camp, and of course we don’t know how the dreaded injury factor might change things. But right now, of all the veterans in Dallas, he seems to be in the most tenuous position.