Latest On Cowboys’ RB Plans

Leading up to the draft, the Cowboys were frequently linked to selecting a running back relatively early. Dallas eschewed a number of opportunities to add a rookie to the backfield, though, and immediately following the event a reunion with Ezekiel Elliott was finalized.

Owner Jerry Jones’ comments about Elliott’s ability to remain a starter at this point in his career were matched by the former rushing champion himself. Elliott is by far the most experienced back on the Cowboys’ roster, but head coach Mike McCarthy revealed at the team’s rookie minicamp that a committee approach will be used in 2024.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” McCarthy said about Elliott resuming his previous role as a workhorse back. “What do you mean? The guy carried the ball more than anybody in the history of football in the first couple of years. That’s not going to be his role, we’re a running back by committee. He’ll definitely play at the level that he’s played at in my time here. I anticipate that. I don’t see any drop off in the way he moves” (h/t Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News).

After allowing Tony Pollard to depart in free agency this offseason, Dallas has Elliott (who averaged a career-worst 3.5 yards per carry with the Patriots last season), Malik DavisRico Dowdle and free agent addition Royce Freeman as current running back options. As EVP Stephen Jones noted, however, the team is still open to further backfield additions. One back (Nathaniel Peat) was brought in as part of the Cowboys’ UDFA class. In terms of experienced candidates, Dalvin CookLatavius Murray, Cam Akers and Jerick McKinnon top the list of unsigned free agents.

Cook – like Elliott – was named as a back interested in a Cowboys deal earlier this offseason. It remains to be seen if that feeling is mutual in Cook’s case, something which is especially a question mark with Elliott now in the fold. Dallas currently has only $3.86MM in cap space, so moves at the running back position or any other would need to be inexpensive.

In 2023 (McCarthy’s first season as offensive play-caller), the Cowboys led the NFL in scoring while ranking third in passing yards. The team was mid-pack on the ground (14th), though, leaving plenty of room for improvement this season. Elliott will have a significant role to play upon his return to Dallas, but it will be interesting to see how the rest of the backfield shakes out over the coming months.

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