The Dallas Cowboys are pretty set at the top of their running back group with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. That 1-2 punch proved to be dynamic in 2019 and should have similar results in 2020. However, when you look at the running back depth chart, the Cowboys don’t have much else going for them.
Jamize Olawale opted out of the season due to COVID-19, and the rest of the players are undrafted free agents. The Dallas Cowboys have had good luck with undrafted free agents in the past, but they’re far from a guarantee. Though the Cowboys may not need a fullback, if they decided to keep one, the only option right now is Sewo Olinilua.
As training camp goes along and teams eventually have to cut down to their final 53, there’s one name the Dallas Cowboys should consider making a trade for: Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Jaylen Samuels.
Ed Bouchette, who covers the Steelers for The Athletic, recently did a mailbag where he discussed the running back depth chart. Bouchette suggested that Samuels may not make the Steelers final 53-man roster.
“That assumes they keep four. We know they’re keeping fullback Derek Watt and they have sometimes kept three halfbacks, sometimes four. If they keep four, it comes down to Jaylen Samuels vs. Kerrith Whyte. In my pre-camp roster prediction of 53, I chose Whyte because of his speed and what he did in a short time with them last season. However, you can make a case for Samuels as possibly serving as their third tight end, a position he played at NC State, albeit not in a traditional sense. I’ll stick with Whyte as No. 4.”
Ed Bouchette, The Athletic
If Samuels is on the roster bubble with the Steelers as Bouchette suggests, the Dallas Cowboys need to make a phone call.
Samuels is a versatile running back who played some tight end in college and could be used in an H-Back role. He has the hands to be a weapon out of the backfield and the running ability to carry the football as well.
Though he only averaged 3.5 yards per attempt over his two seasons with the Steelers, he rushed for 22 first downs on his 122 carries. He was more of a threat in the passing game, where he caught 77 passes over the last two seasons on 86 targets. Though he only averaged 6.9 yards per reception, he was reliable, catching 84.9% of his targets.
Last season as the Steelers dealt with injuries to James Conner, Samuels racked up 113 touches and averaged 4.8 yards per touch and scored two touchdowns.
Last season, Jaylen Samuels showed off his versatility by lining up 56 times in the slot and out wide as a wide receiver. Though the majority of his snaps came as a running back (291), Samuels can flex out of the backfield to create matchup problems. The Steelers even used him at quarterback in the wildcat for 15 snaps in 2019 when they were struggling for production on offense.
He wouldn’t be a full-time answer at fullback, but as Jamize Olawale only averaged seven offensive snaps per game over the last couple of years at fullback, the Cowboys could mix and match who they use at fullback to achieve the same deployment rate.
Samuels is only scheduled to count $814,000 and $984,000 against the salary cap over the next two seasons. In trade compensation, it wouldn’t cost the Cowboys much to acquire the versatile running back from the Steelers. If you recall, the Cowboys sent a fifth-round draft pick to the Raiders for Olawale and a sixth-round pick. By that point, Olawale had already been in the league for six seasons.
If Jaylen Samuels is on the outside looking in for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’d likely be happy to receive a seventh-round pick or a compensatory sixth-round pick in a trade.
Because of the relative inexperience on the running back depth chart and the lack of pass catchers on the tight end depth chart, the Cowboys could use a player like Jaylen Samuels to round out their offense. His versatility to line up across the formation and his ability as a receiver make him an interesting chess piece that Kellen Moore could use in a variety of ways.