Cowboys roster battle: Ezekiel Elliott, Rico Dowdle, Royce Freeman compete for RB1

The 2024 Dallas Cowboys are flipping the script when it comes to the way they handle the running back position. They have spent years investing long-term contracts and big money to the position, but all of the sudden they have become bargain hunters.

Part of that is bringing back Ezekiel Elliott. While some are not thrilled with the idea that he could be the RB1 this season, the possibility of that happening is very real and needs to be examined. We take a look at Elliott and some other contenders in a battle for the top spot before Week 1 of the season rolls around.

Cowboys RB1 options for 2024

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Perry Knotts/Getty Images

Career Stats:

  • Rushing attempts: 2,065
  • Yards: 8,904
  • Touchdowns: 71

At this point, there is no need to try and sell Ezekiel Elliott to the fanbase. By now Cowboys Nation knows who he is and what he’s about. Elliott is one of the toughest RBs the league has in it, and when it comes to short yardage and grinding out tough runs, few do it as consistently as he does.

However, the question that looms large is can he do it while handling a full-time load, and be explosive while doing it? His recent track record tells us we shouldn’t expect massive production and explosive plays from the seasoned veteran, but he still may be the best of the available options right now, which some in the fanbase shutter to hear.

He is reliable, he stays on the field, he knows the offense, and his teammates trust him. All that while being on a deal that maxes out in value at $3 million. The fact remains even if you don’t love the idea of Zeke being the lead guy in the backfield, there are worse options out there and this is clearly a scenario the Cowboys brass are comfortable with as they alluded to such the entire week of the draft.

The Cowboys hope they can keep him healthy, use him in the right scenarios and reap the rewards of getting the best a current day Ezekiel Elliott can provide, if not, it may be a season long problem.

Rico Dowdle

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys

Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Career Stats:

  • Rushing attempts: 96
  • Yards: 385
  • Touchdowns: 2

Rico Dowdle presents an interesting option for the Cowboys at RB1. He’s never manned the spot his entire time with the Cowboys, but the intrigue to see him do so seems to be at least marginally high for many. It’s never been about ability for Dowdle as the young RB has shown flashes throughout his career, it’s been more about his lack of availability and a history of injuries that have kept him off the field throughout his career.

With only 96 rushes to his name thus far he is a RB with untapped potential that has shown a glimpse of exciting production in his opportunities last season. Dowdle may not be the favorite for the job anymore with the return of Elliott, but those in the know would not be surprised if the team gets to camp in Oxnard, CA and he looks like the best RB on the roster.

A perfect scenario for the Cowboys may very well be Dowdle separating himself as the clear lead dog, with Zeke spelling him from time to time while also being the go-to short yardage back. It may not be the best combination the league has ever seen, but it could be enough to be effective for the Cowboys in 2024.

Royce Freeman

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Career Stats:

  • Rushing attempts: 471
  • Yards: 1,792
  • Touchdowns: 10

Royce Freeman brings more production an experience than Dowdle or any of the other backs not named Zeke can provide. For that he provides an interesting dynamic to this RB battle. The Cowboys may decide not to keep both Zeke and Freeman, and if that is the case there may be a lot of factors that work against Freeman sticking with the team this season.

However, if he is able to get to training camp and impress the coaching staff with his ability, there could be a serious conversation that needs to be had somewhere in this room. Freeman has shown the ability to make plays in his career, he just has never had the chance to do it for long stretches at a time, nor be able to do it as the main guy for a team.

Dallas provides him the opportunity that not many other franchises could have, and a long-time reserve RB has a chance to come in and earn his way into a pivotal role on America’s Team.

Something is going to have to give when it comes this Cowboys RB room. And while it’s not the most inspiring group, if Dallas is able to find the right combination of guys, and put them in the right spot, good, productive things can still happen in 2024.

They don’t need an all-time great to be successful, they just need capable. The Cowboys hope they have that with the names presented above.

Other contenders:

  • Deuce Vaughn
  • Snoop Conner
  • Malik Davis


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