Despite not drafting one, the Cowboys can still fix their running back situation

Free agency was a tough time for the Dallas Cowboys as we watched many key players leave while the team did next to nothing to replace them. This past weekend brought some solace as the team filled many of those holes with draft picks. As it does every year, the cold temperature from a dead calm free agency period slowly starts to heat up as the excitement level gradually increases. The team added five new prospects who have the potential to make an immediate impact, and it encompasses both sides of the ball.

  • The offensive line now consists of Zack Martin and four young guys
  • They added three Zimmer guys who are capable of making the defense stronger

That’s certainly a good start, but the Cowboys left the draft without a new rookie running back leaving a big hole at the position. The Cowboys had opportunities to address this area in free agency and the draft, but didn’t want to spend the money or claimed the draft board never line up with the choice of a running back.

The bad news is things haven’t fallen into place for them. They made a very lazy attempt to sign low-cost free agent running backs like Zack Moss and A.J. Dillon but were outbid by another team. It’s worth noting that neither of these guys cost that much. Moss signed a two-year $8 million deal with Cincinnati while Dillon returned to Green Bay for a one-year price of just $2.7 million. That was too steep for the Cowboys, apparently.

The Cowboys reluctance to overpay in free agency may have been tied to the idea that they would find their new running back in the draft, but again, it didn’t work out. With every pick that came up, a player at another position was always graded higher on their board. The last opportunity came with the 87th overall pick. They thought about taking a running back with that pick but stayed true to their draft board.

Should we be upset with them for not reaching for a running back to cover a need? That doesn’t seem right. The Cowboys’ player personnel team did their homework and knew the landscape of this draft. They felt like they could address many of their needs without reaching for less talented players. And they were mostly right. Their first three selections were all players who filled the void of their three most expensive free agents who left. It would’ve been fantastic if they could’ve lucked into four-for-four by replacing the next most expensive departing free agent (Tony Pollard), but sometimes the stars don’t line up perfectly.

The Cowboys’ front office did not compromise talent to satisfy need and now they’re left with a hole at running back. They attempted to throw a little dirt in that hole before the draft by signing Royce Freeman and threw another dirt clod in there with the signing of Ezekiel Elliott. None of these players are big difference-makers. With Zeke, Freeman, Rico Dowdle, Malik Davis, and Deuce Vaughn, the Cowboys running back position group features a lot of warm bodies. That’s all.

Is this the hand the Cowboys want to play entering the new season? Not quite. There is still one more chance to go fish.

The Cowboys didn’t draft a running back, but several teams did, and suddenly those depth charts got a little more crowded. Over the course of training camp, some of these new rookies will earn favor and jump the current backup on the depth chart. The Cowboys didn’t want to spend a future third-rounder to get back into the fourth round of this year’s draft (and good for them!), but they might not mind spending a future fifth- or six-round pick to acquire one of these backups who have suddenly lost some of their worth with their new team. With all the compensatory draft capital they’ll have next year, a move like this would be no skin off their nose.

Who would they target? Right now, we don’t know. That’s another one of those “wait and see” situations, which we know the Cowboys are good at. Eventually, some current backups will be displaced by new fresh-legged rookies. Here are a few examples:

We understand that none of these options are star players and we should all accept that the time to get a potential star has passed. But that doesn’t mean the team can’t find another option to throw into the potpourri of depth backs on the Cowboys roster in hopes of finding a player who can outperform what they currently have and handle 50+ percent of the touches. This team has a lot of good offensive weapons and with a heavy investment in the offensive line this past weekend, the running game has a chance to improve even without having a star back running the ball.


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