With NFL free agency officially beginning March 18, this series will take a position by position look at the Dallas Cowboys roster as it stands now. Today we will look at the quarterbacks and running backs.
Four years into the league, Dak Prescott set career highs in passing yards (4902) and passing touchdowns (30). However, Prescott’s play faded down the stretch, as the Cowboys finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Prescott’s contract status remains the biggest question mark for the Cowboys this off-season. The two sides have been unable to reach an extension agreement. The Cowboys are likely to use the franchise tag on Prescott by Monday’s deadline. The current franchise tag salary for a quarterback is $31.6 million. A Prescott extension would severely hamper the team’s ability to retain fellow free agents Amari Cooper and Byron Jones.
However, the Cowboys are going to do everything they can to retain the two-time Pro Bowler. If he can continue to build on the positive strides he made in Kellen Moore’s offense, the Cowboys will be well positioned to make that next leap forward under a new coaching staff.
Since going undrafted in 2017 out of Central Michigan, Cooper Rush has seen very little action. He has served as Prescott’s backup since Week 6 of 2017, and only thrown three passes in mop up duty. He shined his rookie season in preseason action, though he has not been as impressive in the past two preseasons. Rush is a restricted free agent this offseason, and the Cowboys issued him a tender on Thursday, per Field Yates. The offer would pay $2.14 million for the 2020 season. As Prescott’s contract negotiations continue, Rush could play a significant role for the team taking first team reps with the offense.
Position: Running backs
Ezekiel Elliott finished the 2019 season fourth in the league in rushing yards with 1357 rushing yards along with 12 touchdowns. The three time Pro-Bowler continued to display his durability, starting all 16 games of the season, and appearing to get stronger as the season went along. Elliott has been a cornerstone of the Dallas offense the past four years and signed an extension this past September that made him the league’s highest paid running back.
The biggest question going into 2020 for Elliott is how exactly he will be used under new head coach Mike McCarthy. McCarthy’s lack of running back usage while in Green Bay is well noted, but he also never had a back of Zeke’s caliber. Elliott is simply too talented to not continue being fed.
The 2019 fourth round draft pick made the most of the limited opportunities he received last season. Tony Pollard carried 86 times for 455 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Elliott, and proved himself a fine complimentary back. His usage will likely increase in 2020 as the Cowboys seek to manage Elliott’s workload.
The longtime Oakland Raider fullback did not record a carry or a reception in 2019, and was never more than a blocker on offense. However, McCarthy’s Packer teams used the fullback more than most of the league, with John Kuhn being the primary beneficiary, so Jamize Olawale’s usage in short yardage situations could see a bump this year.
The next piece in this series will examine the Cowboys wide receivers and tight ends. Stay safe everyone!
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