Free Agency 2.0 Dallas Cowboys 2.0 – RB

With the release of Ezekiel Elliott this off-season and the only additions to the running back stable are the dynamic but diminutive Deuce Vaughn in round six of the NFL Draft and Ronald Jones, who had only 17 carries last season for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Dallas Cowboys still need to add that hammer for goal-line plays. Remember, Tony Pollard is signed to the franchise tag but is recovering from a high ankle sprain and a fractured fibula he suffered in the playoffs against San Francisco. 

We have seen some options suggested by other websites. Still, this team will not spend big money for any of the crops currently available in the running back market, so it will have to be a mutual agreement of a player looking to stick around in this league and hit some incentives to recoup the money. Dallas realizes they need one more legit back in the arsenal this season.   

The way I see it, it comes down to two familiar names and a wildcard option for that final running back spot.

Option One Resign Zeke Elliott

The market is not very busy for Zeke, and returning to the Cowboys makes the most sense. The biggest question is what contract it would take to bring him back, and is his ego going to take an incentive-laid agreement, or is he ready to hang it up?

He is interested in returning, but Dallas must ensure it is 100% on their terms concerning cap, length, and incentive language. Zeke is different from the player he was a few years ago, but he could still fill a role and need for the Cowboys.  

In 2023 Zeke was in on 48% of the snaps, 12 starts, 876 yards, 3.8 yards average, and 12 TDs, but the question is he willing to accept it or will greener pastures (Kansas City, Cincinnati) be too appealing for him and his ego.

Option 2 Leonard Fournette

An alternative to Zeke floating around the internet is adding “Playoff Lenny” to the roster. Fournette was involved in 63.5% of snaps, nine starts, 668 yards with 3.5 an attempt, and three touchdowns.  

Fournette is more of a hammer than Zeke for goal-line situations. Still, it should be considered more of a fallback option to Zeke since they are the same age, have similar 2022 productivity, and is not a significant upgrade over Zeke.

Option 3 (sort of) Derrick Henry

Someone reliable shared a rumor over the draft weekend that Dallas would be in on Henry if he were traded or released. My instructions were to believe when I saw the draft completed, but reviewing the draft of both teams, that it is at least possible the Titans will cut ties with the big man.

Tennessee appears to be lining up their backfield with Will Levis (round 2) and Tyjae Spears (round 3) for the next ten years, so should the Titans decide to move on after June 1st from Derrick Henry, the salary cap savings they would receive would be identical if he is cut or released (11 million). 

If Tennessee wants to recoup a little draft capital for 2024, something similar to what the Cowboys orchestrated with the Colts and Texans, a trade can be worked out where they pick up a portion of his contract.

Please make no mistake; Henry is a better running back by a significant margin over Zeke or Lenny at this point in their careers. Still, any commitment to Henry would likely coincide with getting Tony Pollard to a more team-friendly three-year deal and off the franchise tag. It would cost more money to add Henry over Zeke, but the benefits for 2023 would likely justify the commitment.

Spotrac estimates the fair market value for Leonard Fournette is two-year at 2.3 million a year. You can put some incentives in the deal based on games played, touchdowns, playoff wins, and yard rush plateaus reached to come in at two years for 3 million potentially a year. I would take Zeke or Fournette at that number but not any higher.     

If Dallas can get Tony Pollard into a deal that puts his cap value around 4 or 5 million but for a more extended agreement, I would be good with trading for Henry if Tennessee is willing to do the same type of deal as Cooks where they pay a portion of his contract for 2023, and Dallas covers the rest. 

Imagine if you could get Derrick Henry for a day-three pick in 2024 and pay him 6 million next season. Teaming him and Pollard together would be an impressive tandem with Deuce Vaughn, Ronald Jones, or Malik Davis as backups. 

The dream is Derrick Henry, but the reality is Zeke Elliot returns for 3 million. 

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