Ex-Cowboy Urges Signing of $20 Million RB to Return to ‘Big-Boy Football’

Former Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers wants the team to sign Derrick Henry in free agency.

Getty Former Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers wants the team to sign Derrick Henry in free agency.

We are getting closer to the real start of the NFL offseason, which will come along on March 13 when teams can officially begin signing players. At that point, we will see just how the Cowboys intend to approach a signing period that is obviously critical to changing the team’s disappointing postseason performances in recent years, now 2-5 in the playoffs under coach Mike McCarthy.

If there is one single player who could change that outlook, it might well be the toughest running back on the market, former Titans star running back Derrick Henry.

At Bleacher Report, NFL analyst Rico Gathers—who played for the Cowboys in 2018—noted on his podcast, “The Rico Report” that adding Henry to a Cowboys offense that has lacked toughness when needed would be a move that could change the team’s future.

Signing Henry, Gathers said, would take the Cowboys’ run game back to its Ezekiel Elliott heyday and return the Cowboys to playing, “big-boy football.”

Cowboys Prepared to Move on From Tony Pollard?

In making the case for Henry to Dallas, Gathers added that the team would need to create cap space for Henry, but once that was accomplished, the fit would be ideal. Tony Pollard disappointed last year, and in a Cowboys offense with plenty of finesse, he was probably too much of the same thing. The Cowboys could use a grinder like Henry.

“Zeke Elliott was a bruising-type back, inside runner, can get outside if he needs to, but he is more a tough, inside-run type guy,” Gathers said. “They move on from him. They say, ‘Tony Pollard, you’re our guy.’ Tony Pollard didn’t have the year I think most Cowboys fans anticipated. Why don’t we get back to big-boy football, between-the-tackle football? …

“You can’t tell me Jerry Jones, when he says, ‘I’m going all in,’ he’s not thinking, let’s bolster this running game. Let’s get that going.”

To be sure, Henry is not a spring chicken at age 30. He might not be the same power back he was in 2020, when he rushed for 2,027 yards, becoming just the eighth player to reach that threshold. But don’t think for a moment he’s lost his rough-and-tumble touch—Henry rushed for 1,167 yards this season on a bad Titans team.

In the last game of the season, he notched 153 yards on 19 carries. Henry had four 100-yard games this season, which is four times as many as Pollard.

Derrick Henry Figures to Get $10 Million per Year

Financially, Henry will be in the upper range of running backs, but the market for even the best running backs still remains depressed, meaning the team could come away with a bargain no matter what deal it were to give Henry.

The consensus is that Henry will earn around $10 million per year. At Spotrac, his market value is pegged at a one-year, $10.3 million contract. At Pro Football Focus, it is a two-year, $20 million, and the same prediction comes in at Bleacher Report, as well.

Henry has said he wants to play for a contender, and the Cowboys, along with the Ravens, are the most logical landing spots. So it will require some recruiting and some execution from the Cowboys in the coming weeks to make it happen.

“Let’s make some room under the cap, Dallas Cowboys, and let’s see if we can bring in Derrick Henry,” Gathers said. “Match him with Dak … Now you’ve got to worry about Derrick Henry running down your throat or Dak Prescott, who was in the MVP race, having a running back he doesn’t have to worry about.”