By and large, the 2018 Dallas Cowboys season was considered a success. Following a 3-5 start, Dallas won the NFC East and lost to the eventual NFC champion Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs.
As the case always is in sports, winning elicits expectations. The presumption is for Jason Garrett and the Cowboys to build upon what took place last season.
Garrett is in the final year of his contract and based on Jerry Jones’ decisions, the owner’s in prove-it mode for 2019. Jones aspires to at least reach a conference championship with an ultimate goal of a Super Bowl.
It’s been 23 years since the Cowboys’ last NFC crown. Entering his ninth full season as coach, Garrett’s expectations are transparent.
The Cowboys made some changes to their coaching staff. Will the team make a significant splash in free agency to help its 2019 quest? The Cowboys are expected to have in the neighborhood of $50-55 million in salary cap space to re-sign their own and acquire new talent.
We’re unleashing an eight-part series on free agents the Cowboys could target at every position. The free agents below aren’t necessarily the best available. They represent nice fits in Dallas based on scheme and personnel.
Cowboys’ outlook: Ezekiel Elliott is obviously the bell cow RB in Dallas. It would benefit the Cowboys to reduce Elliott’s workload some. He’s led the NFL in carries two of the last three seasons. Second-string running back Rod Smith is headed toward free agency and Darius Jackson only has six carries in his career.
Without further ado, let’s evaluate the running back position. Here are five free-agent running backs the Cowboys should consider:
Latavius Murray, Vikings (6-3, 230)
The likelihood Murray winds up in Dallas is slim. Murray said this offseason that he wants to start.
"I want to play. I want to start. I’m not content with being in a backup role," Murray said earlier in the week, via the Star Tribune. "I want to compete, and Dalvin (Cook) knows that. We push each other. That’s what it’s about. But I would love to be back here for that opportunity to compete."
Murray started six games for the Minnesota Vikings last season. What he put on tape won’t persuade teams to believe he’s a starting running back. It’s going to be difficult for him to find a destination where he’s going to top the depth chart. He’ll probably soften his demands once he views the market for himself.
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars (6-1, 223)
Yeldon would be a good fit with the Cowboys. He’s as much of a threat catching passing out of the backfield as he is as a ball carrier. The Cowboys could use a third down running back to spell Elliott on occasion. Yeldon played behind Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville, so he’s used to coming in for a workhorse running back and producing.
The 6-foot-1 Alabama product has 465 rushing attempts for 1,872 yards and 171 receptions for 1,302 receiving yards. He’s entered pay dirt 12 times in his career.
Jacquizz Rodgers, Buccaneers (5-6, 205)
Rodgers is another running back who can catch passes out of the backfield. He’s averaged just over seven yards a reception throughout his career. The unrestricted free agent is unlikely to return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 5-foot-6 Oregon State product can also be used as a return man on special teams.
Corey Grant, Jaguars (5-11, 203)
Grant was sidelined for most of 2018 with a Lisfranc injury. In limited action he proved to be a quality player for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s carried the ball 81 times for 454 yards, averaging 5.6 yards a pop.
At 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, Grant has the speed and toughness to run outside the hashes or between the tackles.
Alfred Blue, Texans (6-2, 225)
The Houston Texans are the only team Blue’s ever known in his NFL career. Moving to North Texas wouldn’t be too much of a hassle for the 6-foot-2, 229-pound running back. Blue has been one of the most productive No. 2 running backs in the league since the Texans drafted him in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft. While he doesn’t do anything great, he’s a sufficient in carrying the football, pass catching and blocking.
Blue’s amassed 673 carries for 2,407 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in his career. He would be a more than capable backup to Zeke in Dallas.
Free agents the Cowboys could target
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