Alfred Morris

Cowboys Release RB Alfred Morris

Ezekiel Elliott is back on the Cowboys active roster, but it cost one of his fellow running backs a job. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reports (via Twitter) that Dallas has released veteran running back Alfred Morris.

Morris had three-straight 1,000-yard seasons to start his career with the Redskins before struggling mightily during the 2015 campaign. He ended up catching on with the Cowboys prior to the 2016 season, and he quickly became one of the most dependable backups in the game. The veteran appeared in 28 games (five starts) during his two years in Dallas, including a 2017 campaign where he finished with 547 rushing yards and one touchdown on 115 carries.

That performance ended up earning him a one-year deal with the 49ers, where he was briefly thrust to the top of the depth chart following the season-ending injury to Jerick McKinnon. Morris saw his yards-per-carry average drop below four during his stint in San Francisco, and he finished last season with 428 rushing yards and two scores in 12 games (one start).

With Elliott holding out, the Cowboys re-signed Morris back in July. However, it was clear that Morris didn’t have a clear-cut role on the team, and this was before Elliott inked his recent extension. Ultimately, the organization decided to roll with rookie Tony Pollard and former undrafted free agent Jordan Chunn behind their All-Pro starter.

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NFC East Notes: Cowboys, Morris, Giants, Eagles

After signing Alfred Morris earlier this week, Cowboys executive Stephen Jones admitted his club likely wouldn’t have brought in an established running back if Ezekiel Elliott were not holding out. “We were going to look at something no matter what but probably not as much,” Jones said, via Clarence Hill of the Star Telegram. “Every time you are missing a guy you need to have a guy in here and it made sense for us to get a guy we were comfortable with.” Morris, who served as Elliott’s backup in 2016 and 2017, says he’s been given no assurances that he’ll stick on Dallas’ roster if/when Elliott returns to the team.

Here’s more from the NFC East:

Cowboys To Sign Alfred Morris

As Ezekiel Elliott stays away from Cowboys camp, the team will bring back one of his former backups. Alfred Morris has agreed to rejoin the Cowboys, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Morris was scheduled to visit the Saints, but it looks like he found a more enticing offer with one of his former teams. Morris, 30, played in 28 games for the Cowboys from 2016-17. He closed his first Dallas stint by averaging 4.8 yards per carry for the 2017 Cowboys.

The Cowboys have exchanged proposals with their holdout back, but Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News notes (via Twitter) the last such numbers were discussed July 25. In the meantime, Morris will serve as by far the most experienced backfield option the Cowboys have.

They lost recent Elliott backup Rod Smith to the Giants and drafted both Tony Pollard (Round 4) and Mike Weber (Round 7) this year. Both Pollard and third-year back Darius Jackson (six career carries since being a sixth-round 2016 Cowboys pick) took reps with Dallas’ first-string offense Monday.

Last season, Morris was a late-summer 49ers addition, heading west after Jerick McKinnon tore an ACL. Morris rushed for 428 yards (3.9 per carry) as a 49er. He was the Cowboys’ primary runner during Elliott’s 2017 suspension. While Morris is far removed from his best seasons, two Pro Bowls with the Redskins from 2013-14, he should be relatively fresh. He has taken just 295 handoffs over the past three seasons. And this deal represents some Elliott insurance, with the Cowboys unlikely to carry five tailbacks on their Week 1 53-man roster.

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Saints To Meet With Alfred Morris

Free agent running back Alfred Morris is set to meet with the Saints, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Rapoport also hears that Morris has received interest from two other NFL teams. 

The Saints have been in the market for a running back and Morris would bring experience to their already talented group. At present, they have Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington, one-time Ravens standout Buck Allen, and a couple of other RBs behind star Alvin Kamara.

Morris, 30, signed with SF last year for the veteran’s minimum. He went on to appear in 12 games and averaged 3.9 yards per carry in a limited sample of 111 totes. For his career, Morris has averaged 4.3 yards per attempt, including three high-usage years with the Redskins in which he topped 1,000 yards rushing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: M. Gordon, Broncos, Noteboom

Chargers running back Melvin Gordon will not be eligible for unrestricted free agency until after the 2019 season, as the Bolts picked up his fifth-year option for 2019 back in May. He cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career last season, and he continues to be a force as a receiver out of the backfield. Nonetheless, as Jack Wang of the Orange County Register writes, Gordon still has a long way to go before he can command the type of contract that fellow 2015 first-rounder Todd Gurley recently pulled down (Gordon, after all, has yet to average four yards per carry in his three seasons in the league).

But while Gordon is not focused on his next contract at the moment, he fully expects to be in Gurley territory when that time comes. He said, “[Gurley] definitely changed the market for us…When that time comes for us backs to get paid, I’m sure it’ll be around the same number.” Gordon did play a full 16-game season for the first time in his career in 2017, and there are plenty of reasons to think his YPC average might look a little better in 2018, which could add up to a lucrative extension in another year or so.

Now let’s round up a few more notes from the league’s west divisions:

  • Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was noncommittal when asked after last night’s preseason loss to the Bears if the team would pursue a veteran to back up starting QB Case Keenum. Per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com (Twitter link), Joseph said, “Right now (Chad Kelly) is our guy. I can’t speak for two weeks down the road here. But right now he’s our backup quarterback.” Troy Renck of Denver 7 ABC says Kelly has been impressive in the preseason, but he would still be surprised if the Broncos do not add a veteran signal-caller (Twitter link).
  • In a separate tweet, Renck passes along Joseph’s statement that the Broncos‘ running back competition is still open. Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post, however, reports (unsurprisingly) that rookie Royce Freeman appears to be the winner of the competition, as Denver clearly wants him to be the team’s lead back. Kiszla also points out that UDFA Phillip Lindsay has been sensational in the Broncos’ first two preseason games, and given Lindsay’s abilities on special teams, both Kiszla and Legwold (Twitter link) believe he has a real chance of making the roster.
  • Alfred Morris‘ new contract with the 49ers is for the veteran minimum of $790K, per ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). As expected, Morris will need to play his way onto San Francisco’s Week 1 roster. He will count for $630K against the team’s cap.
  • Rams rookie Joseph Noteboom, a third-round choice in this year’s draft — and the Rams’ first draft pick in 2018 — has a chance to see immediate playing time along the team’s offensive line this season. And, given the age and contract situation of Los Angeles’ current starting O-linemen, Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic writes that Noteboom — an ice hockey standout in high school — could become a fixture at guard or tackle in the very near future. The team has been very impressed with the TCU product thus far, and he acquitted himself nicely during last night’s preseason game, when he played both tackle positions and left guard.
  • The Chiefs signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick earlier today.

49ers To Sign Alfred Morris

The 49ers plan to sign running back Alfred Morris, coach Kyle Shanahan announced on Monday. Morris’ deal is pending a physical. 

Morris, at the very minimum, will provide the Niners an extra body in camp as Jerick McKinnon heals up from a calf strain and Matt Brieda deals with a shoulder injury. If Morris can show some of his old form, then he could have a new home for the 2018 season.

Alf did a great job for us for the two years I was with him,” Shanahan said of their time together in Washington, via 95.7 The Game (on Twitter). “It’s not flashy, but he runs extremely hard. He’s very reliable. You block him for zero, usually he can get at least one. He’s a hard-nosed runner you can keep handing the ball off to.

Morris led the Redskins in rushing for four straight seasons, including his rookie season in which he topped 1,600 yards on the ground. Last year, he averaged 4.8 yards per carry as the Cowboys’ primary starter during Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension.

The Niners are also rostering 2017 fourth-round pick Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert, and Jeremy McNichols at running back.

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Poll: Which UFA RB Should Redskins Target?

Washington’s backfield corps absorbed a major blow Friday when news of Derrius Guice‘s ACL tear surfaced. The second-round pick had impressed during camp and was set to be a key part of the Redskins’ 2018 backfield.

Now, the Redskins are vulnerable here. Chris Thompson admitted he’s not fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered last season, leaving Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine as the team’s top two healthy running backs. Under the circumstances, it would seemingly behoove the Redskins to examine free agent options. Should they?

Washington holds $13MM-plus in cap space, so funding won’t be an issue here given the timing of this injury and the host of proven backs on the market. Of the players available, Orleans Darkwa has generated the most interest this offseason. The Giants’ 2017 rushing leader met with the Patriots in April, before undergoing surgery, and since recovering has met with the Bills, Jets and Colts. Each team passed, but Darkwa has just 276 carries on his NFL odometer. And he averaged 4.4 yards per tote despite running behind an injury-ravaged Giants offensive front.

Alfred Morris led the Redskins in rushing for four straight seasons, and he averaged 4.8 yards per handoff last season as the Cowboys’ primary starter during Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension. The former sixth-round Washington find is 29 and hasn’t generated much interest since his Cowboys contract expired, although he did visit the Jets recently.

Eddie Lacy‘s also fairly young, at 28, but he’s coming off a brutal Seahawks season. After providing per-carry averages north of 4.0 in each of his four Packers seasons, Lacy averaged just 2.6 yards per run for the Seahawks. Branden Oliver has not been as successful on a per-rush basis, holding a career average of 3.4, but he totaled 853 yards from scrimmage as a seven-game starter as a rookie in 2014. Oliver also drew interest from the Bills this summer.

What about the market’s old guard? Adrian Peterson is obviously the first name that comes to mind, and the future Hall of Famer maintains he would like to play a 12th season. Peterson said he’s now healthy and has recovered from the neck injury that ended his 2017 season. While the three-time rushing champion’s best days are behind him, he amassed two 130-plus-yard games with the Cardinals, doing so despite being a midseason acquisition.

Jamaal Charles, 31, made it through last season healthy after extensive knee trouble plagued him in 2015 and 2016, but the Broncos took him out of their rotation. Nevertheless, the two-time All-Pro led Denver backs by averaging 4.3 yards per carry (albeit on just 69 handoffs). DeMarco Murray retired, but he made it clear shortly before that announcement he was interested in playing this season. Could this situation lure the 2014 offensive player of the year out of retirement?

However, the Redskins also have former Broncos backup Kapri Bibbs and third-year UDFA Byron Marshall. Should they bypass the market and go with a cast fronted by Kelley and Perine?

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section!

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New York Notes: Darnold, Breeland, OBJ, Apple

In the wake of Elijah McGuire‘s broken foot, the Jets signed RB George Atkinson III earlier today. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that the team’s first choice was Alfred Morris, who obviously comes with considerably more experience than Atkinson (Gang Green brought Morris in for a visit yesterday). Rapoport says the two sides could not come together on contract terms, so Morris remains a free agent and Atkinson is now a Jet.

Now for more notes from the two clubs who call the Meadowlands home:

  • The Jets still have interest in free agent CB Bashaud Breeland, per ESPN’s Josina Anderson (via Twitter). There’s still no word on whether Breeland will visit with Gang Green, but a number of clubs are interested in his services. Breeland remains undecided for the time being.
  • Just yesterday, we heard that offset language was no longer the issue holding up contract negotiations between the Jets and rookie QB Sam Darnold. Instead, the latest reports suggested that how and when the guarantees in Darnold’s contract could void is the real sticking point. But Rich Cimini of ESPN.com says offset language and the guaranteed money issue are still matters that need to be resolved. Cimini does not think that the holdout will get as bad as the infamous Joey Bosa/Chargers standoff several years ago, but Darnold is in a different situation because he is a quarterback, not a defensive lineman. Every practice he misses is critical, and while there are not enough details to know which party is in the “right” in this case — though Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News opines that Darnold’s agent’s stance with respect to the offset language is ridiculous and selfish — this is fast becoming a lose-lose situation for player and team.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. has excelled in Giants training camp thus far, and he looks committed and healthy, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Raanan ends his tweet with an emphatic, “pay the man.”
  • Though it’s obviously still early in training camp, the Giants‘ offensive line has left much to be desired in summer practices thus far, as Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com writes. Dunleavy lists a few OL free agents that Big Blue might consider bringing in, and he also names Denzelle Good, who is currently fighting for a starting job with the Colts, as an interesting trade candidate.
  • After two seasons as a backup cornerback with the Titans, Curtis Riley saw an opportunity to start at free safety with the Giants, which encouraged him to sign with Big Blue in March. Thus far, his conversion to safety is going swimmingly, and Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes that Riley has a legitimate chance to win the starting FS job.
  • Giants CB Eli Apple‘s maturity issues and lack of effort have gotten him into plenty of hot water with his teammates and coaches during his first two seasons in the pros, but new head coach Pat Shurmur is impressed with Apple’s attitude and his play thus far. Shurmur said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, “I’m seeing a guy that’s all about his business. He’s very businesslike. And he’s covering really well, a really good attribute for a corner. I like the way he’s working. He’s out there challenging, but he’s also being smart. And I like the way he’s functioning in the building. Very attentive in meetings. In my mind, and based on what I’ve seen, he’s acting like a pro.”

Jets To Host Alfred Morris On Visit

The Jets are taking a look at the running back market on Saturday, with Alfred Morris arriving for a visit, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

It’s been a quiet offseason for the former Redskins starter and Cowboys depth piece. This is Morris’ first known visit in 2018. While Morris is now 29, he should be relatively fresh after being Ezekiel Elliott‘s backup for most of the past two seasons.

The Jets let Matt Forte walk in the offseason but added Isaiah Crowell to their backfield mix. New York also has Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire and former Seahawks starter Thomas Rawls under contract. McGuire left Friday’s Jets practice with a foot injury, however. And Rapoport reports this is a serious malady.

McGuire fractured his foot and will undergo surgery, Rapoport tweets. The second-year back will miss an extended time period and looks set for IR. This may not be a season-ending setback, though, with Rapoport adding an IR-return slot may be possible in this case. But that will depend on the Jets’ injury situation this season, since teams are limited to two IR-return players per season.

Serving as a backup to Forte and Powell, McGuire rushed for 315 yards (3.6 per carry) as a rookie.

Morris, though, looked spry with the 2017 Cowboys, averaging a career-best 4.8 yards per carry. That came on 115 totes after Morris received just 69 in 2016. Elliott’s suspension increasing Morris’ workload, the veteran gained 547 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown last season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Best Free Agent RB Remaining?

Even as June winds down, there are a surprising number of quality running backs still available on the open market. The current free agent crop of backfield options includes some notable names, such as: 

Charles, Hightower, Vereen, and Murray were all on the Saints’ radar recently as they canvassed the free agent market for running back support. Ultimately, they signed Terrance West to help fill in during Mark Ingram‘s four-game suspension, leaving the other vets in limbo. While Charles, Hightower, and Vereen all showed their stuff for coach Sean Payton, Murray declined his invite, preferring not to participate in a giant cattle call.

When considering only past accomplishments, the names of Peterson, Charles, and Murray obviously stand out. But, unfortunately, father time is cruel to NFL running backs and these players are on the back nines of their careers, to put it mildly. Out of this trio, Murray has the best 2017 to show teams. Even though his job as the Titans’ top rusher was usurped by Derrick Henry, he had 39 catches for 266 yards and occasionally showed the powerful rushing that made him a force to be reckoned with in Dallas. Charles, he of several 1,000-yard seasons, had only 296 rushing yards in total and found himself at the bottom of Denver’s depth chart to close out the season. Peterson, meanwhile, forced his way out of New Orleans due to a lack of playing time and had only two performances of note in his run with the Cardinals.

Lacy signed with the Seahawks last year and hoped to put concerns about his health and conditioning to rest. Unfortunately, those questions persist after he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in nine games. Lacy was a bulldozer in his early days with the Packers, but his last season of note came in 2015 when he averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Even then, ball security was a problem as he fumbled the ball four times.

Darkwa is back on the NFL radar after doctors cleared him to workout. Darkwa won’t win this poll on name value, but unlike everyone else on this list, he’s coming off of the best season of his career.The 26-year-old (did we mention that he’s also the youngest running back here?) ran for 751 yards off of 171 carries, good for a strong 4.4 yards per carry average. It was an ugly year for the Giants on the whole, but Darkwa excelled on a personal level.

Vereen, another ex-Giant, can’t say the same for his 2017 season. However, his second act with the Giants has been respectable on the whole. Acting as a secondary ball carrier, he has averaged 4.2 yards per carry over the last three seasons. He also showed that he can still be a worthwhile pass catcher out of the backfield with 44 grabs for 253 yards last season, though he averaged a career-low 5.8 yards per catch.

Last but not least is Morris, though you can be forgiven for forgetting about this three-time 1,000-yard rusher. Morris was a force to be reckoned with from 2012-2014, but he has been riding the pine for the Cowboys over the last two years. What you might not realize is that Morris was tremendous in a small sample last year as Ezekiel Elliott‘s early-season backup and later-season fill-in. Morris averaged 4.76 yards per carry off of 115 attempts, which makes one wonder why we haven’t heard his name mentioned in recent months.

Out of the running backs listed here, which player do you feel can contribute the most in 2018? Click below to cast your vote and defend your choice in the comments section.

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