Alfred Morris drew the short straw.
Per multiple reports, the Dallas Cowboys released the veteran running back from the active roster on Saturday, one day before the Cowboys host the Giants in the 2019 season opener.
In a corresponding roster move, the team officially added some guy named Ezekiel Elliott to the 53-man squad.
Morris is the victim of the numbers game as Dallas needed to clear room for Elliott, who ended his summer-long holdout Wednesday. The club was granted a temporary roster exemption amid the two-time rushing champion’s standoff.
Morris, a 2012 sixth-round pick of the Redskins, inked a one-year contract with the Cowboys at the onset of training camp, the subsequent chess move to Zeke beginning his holdout. The 30-year-old appeared in two preseason games, rushing eight times for 24 yards and a touchdown.
His roster spot appeared secure after Dallas executive vice president name-dropped Morris when discussing contingency plans in Elliott’s absence. The team had deployed rookie Tony Pollard and Morris as a one-two punch.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ve been preparing for that,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said last month, via Pro Football Talk. “That’s why we brought Alfred [Morris] in. As we’ve said, we’ve been so pleasantly surprised, Pollard has been even better than we expected. We’re very comfortable with what we have there. We’re comfortable with that group if that’s what it is. Obviously, we’re still going to be doing everything we can to do something with Zeke.”
Morris was originally signed by Dallas in 2016 and served as a fill-in starter during Elliott’s 2017 suspension. His release might have also been financially-motivated; because he was cut prior to 3 p.m. CT, the club avoided guaranteeing his $930,000 salary. It’s possible he returns after Week 1.
The Cowboys head into the season with a three-headed backfield consisting of Elliott, Pollard, 2018 undrafted free agent Jordan Chunn, and fullback Jamize Olawale.
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Cowboys Rule Out Three Defenders
The Cowboys‘ defense will be down a trio of reserves Sunday. Head coach Jason Garrett announced that safeties Donovan Wilson and Darian Thompson and linebacker Luke Gifford — all of whom have ankle injuries — will not play against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium.
Dallas is otherwise healthy following a summer of sitouts, getting back previously-injured stars such as inside linebacker Sean Lee, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, wide receiver Amari Cooper, tackle Tyron Smith, and guard Zack Martin, who was limited each of the last three practices with a back ailment, and who was named an offensive captain.
Dak Close to New Deal?
Echoing recent hearsay, Stephen Jones confirmed Friday that the team and its franchise quarterback are engaged in ongoing discussions, with the hope of striking an agreement prior to kickoff, unlikely as it may seem.
“I’d say the dialogue has been good, and we’re still holding out hope we can figure out how to come up with a deal by the game on Sunday,” he said, per Pro Football Talk.
Previous reports indicated that Prescott is seeking $40 million annually on his next deal, which would be an NFL record, dwarfing the $35 million that Seattle’s Russell Wilson is due for 2019. The Cowboys may balk at setting a new mark after appeasing Elliott in a similar fashion.
Assuming no movement, Prescott, a 2016 fourth-round pick, will take the field Sunday making just $2.02 million in base salary for his walk year. This may be the one instance where artificial deadlines don’t spur action, as Jones revealed “we’re open for business” during the season.
“I know sometimes the players don’t care to do that,” Jones said about negotiating midseason, via PFT. “But we can obviously juggle that and do that. We would be fine with doing that. It’s really up to the player and their representatives to determine what their deadlines are and their timelines. It doesn’t seem to bother us, and I don’t know that we’ve given those type of deadlines or timelines.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL