We’re taking a look at two positions for the Dallas Cowboys in this installment, backs and tight ends, due to the small number of names involved from all sources.
The Cowboys took what was seen to be a bit of a gamble last season in the backfield, only carrying two running backs and a fullback. Somewhat surprisingly, they got away with it, and had no noticeable negative effects. It will remain to be seen if Mike McCarthy is also comfortable with such a sparsely occupied room.
Currently under contract
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Jamize Olawale (fullback)
- Tony Pollard
That’s the three from last season. All are under contract again this year.
According to Over the Cap, Jordan Chunn is under contract as well, although he is also shown as an exclusive rights free agent. That means the team can sign him back if they want with a qualifying offer, and he is unable to negotiate with other teams.
Olawale has been something of a missing element in the offense. Before each of his first two seasons with the Cowboys, there was anticipation that he would have a bigger role to utilize his unusual speed and athleticism for the position. That never came about. Now we will have to see if McCarthy and Kellen Moore any intention of utilizing him more.
Current free agents
So what will the Cowboys do? They may have their RB1 and RB2 all set, but with the way they have handled Elliott in the past, they obviously need more bodies than that for camp and preseason. It hardly seems worthwhile to sign any but the most basement level bargain free agents here. Likewise, if you anticipate just needing camp bodies or someone to serve as a backup, the UDFA ranks usually provide sufficient options with no need to use a pick.
I think UDFA will be the main route. They may be just trying to get through to the regular season with what they already have. If there is a need for more depth after the preseason, they would be able to sign a street free agent after the cuts and waivers. Then they will likely stash a back or two on the practice squad. There may be a late-round pick spent here if someone they really like falls. But there just isn’t going to be much drama in this group. Which is good, because there is a ton elsewhere.
There is also some curiosity as to how the TE will be used this season. The Cowboys have long held an old-school view of the position, valuing blocking as much as receiving ability. That may be in for a change, but we will have to wait to know for certain.
Currently under contract
- Dalton Schultz
- Cole Hikutini
Well, there certainly is need here.
Current free agents
- Jason Witten
- Blake Jarwin (RFA)
Witten has indicated he still wants to play this year. However, there are indications that Dallas is ready to move on from the most accomplished tight end in franchise history. Being 37-years-old and having a commensurate lack of speed and agility are the main reasons. He is still crafty, but just doesn’t bring what the team needs to the table any more.
Jarwin is widely expected to be re-signed, and being a restricted free agent gives the team a lot of control in bringing him back if they want. If another team makes an offer the Cowboys choose not to match, they would receive a draft pick as compensation. Given what Jarwin has shown on the field, pencil him in for the roster to start the season.
With the situation as it is, the Cowboys will be looking to add to the group.
Outside free agents
From the NFL Trade Rumors top 100 list, with age noted.
- Austin Hooper 25
- Hunter Henry 25
- Eric Ebron 27
- Greg Olsen 35
- Tyler Eifert 29
It’s not a long list, and expect a few to re-sign with their old teams. Not much to work with here.
- Cole Kemit - Notre Dame
- Brycen Hopkins - Pudue
- Jared Pinkney - Vanderbilt
- Hunter Bryant - Washington
- Thaddeus Moss - LSU
The top 100 players from CBS Sports is also a bit skimpy at the position, with no one likely to be taken before day two of the draft. However, there is a very good chance that the Cowboys will take a tight end somewhere in the draft.
Given the paucity of good free agents and the team’s reluctance to invest much in free agency, the draft is likely to be how Dallas fills out the position. But given all the other needs, this could not be until day three. That means this is a spot to keep an eye on in camp. There is likely to be a strong competition for TE3 this year.
It also will be affected by just how the coaching staff wants to employ the position. We may not see much in the way of three tight end sets, and maybe not even as many two TE packages as in the past.
Links to earlier installments in this series: