Cowboys Urged to ‘Roll Dice’ on Disgruntled Star Free-Agent RB

Cowboys free agency could be slow but adding Austin Ekeler would bring a new look.

Getty Cowboys free agency could be slow but adding Austin Ekeler would bring a new look.

The closer we get to the official start of the new NFL year, the further away we appear to be getting from any actual answers on what might be coming next for the Dallas Cowboys. Reports have it that they’re letting their top offensive lineman, Tyron Smith, walk; that they’re nickel-and-diming star edge rusher Micah Parsons; and there’s even a rumor they’ll let Dak Prescott play out his contract and not sign any major new players. It’s possible that Cowboys free agency could be a rough time.

But if there is some hope, it’s in the notion that no matter what happens, the team is going to need a running back. Sure, it’s possible that the Cowboys could simply re-sign Tony Pollard on a reduced contract, but there is expected to be a trove of available players at the position, and the Cowboys could use a new one, even if it needs to be a bargain.

At Bleacher Report, they’re predicting that Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who is coming off a season in which he was unhappy and wanted a trade out of L.A.. would be the right mix of value and talent to reboot the Cowboys ground game. Ekeler missed three games with an ankle injury and lost carries to Joshua Kelley, but is there for the plucking in Cowboys free agency.

Austin Ekeler Could Prove to Be a Value Signing

Here’s how Alex Kay of B/R wrote it:

“The Dallas Cowboys should roll the dice on Ekeler this spring, as owner Jerry Jones has never shied away from a splashy free-agent signing.

“Dallas didn’t find the success it was hoping for after releasing Ezekiel Elliott and installing longtime backup Tony Pollard as its starting back for 2023. With Pollard set to test the market, the Cowboys could opt for a fresh start by letting him walk and bringing Ekeler aboard for 2024.”

There is some sense to starting over again, and certainly Ekeler will be a value proposition for anyone who signs him. He is projected to get a three-year, $22 million contract at Spotrac, and Pro Football Focus has him warranting a much more modest deal at two years, $9 million total. The cap-strapped Cowboys might pass on Ekeler at the Spotrac numbers, but might jump at the PFF contract projection.

Cowboys Free Agency Could Be Disappointing

The bigger problem, though, might be the actual fit of Ekeler in the Cowboys offense. One aspect that Dallas clearly missed without Elliott on the roster last year was his ability to run between the tackles and bruise his way for short yardage. That’s not really the style of Pollard, who is an upright runner, excelling on using his speed on the edges.

Ekeler is shifty with the ball but he is 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, not exactly a short-yardage grinder. He is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and, in 2022, recorded 107 catches for 722 yards and five touchdowns.

Ekeler would add an interesting element for the Cowboys, but the way the rumor mill is shaping up, this could be a very disappointing offseason in Dallas. That includes the return of Pollard.

According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, running-back additions were not much discussed at last week’s Combine. But returning Pollard to the roster was.

“Derrick Henry and Saquon Barkley’s names did not come up in Indy. The team is more likely to re-sign Tony Pollard, presuming his price is attainable, and draft a cheap, fresh-leg back to complement him,” Gehlken wrote.

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