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Dallas Cowboys: 5 Free Agent RB Options To Replace Lance Dunbar

Brian Martin

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Dallas Cowboys: 5 Free Agent RB Options To Replace Lance Dunbar

Lance Dunbar’s decision to take his talents to Los Angeles and become a member of the Rams organization creates a hole on offense for the Dallas Cowboys. As things stand right now, they don’t really have that change of pace/3rd down running back on the roster. But, fortunately I think there are five free agent options still available that fit that criteria.

Of course, we could see Ezekiel Elliott get involved more in the passing game, but he is already expected to handle a heavy workload. Darren McFadden would be the next logical choice, but even he’s not quite as elusive as he once was. And I don’t even think the Cowboys would consider Alfred Morris in that type of role. He is simply not that kind of RB and probably a long shot to make the roster in the first place.

The next logical step would be to turn to free agency once again because there are options available that could be acquired rather cheaply. Keep reading below to see the 5 available free agent RB options that I think make sense for the Dallas Cowboys.

Dexter McClusterDexter McCluster (5’8″, 170)

I personally like the idea of the Dallas Cowboys bringing in Dexter McCluster to take over the role left by the departed Lance Dunbar. I think he is the player the Cowboys were hoping Dunbar would turn into, but that never really materialized because of his reoccurring injuries.

McCluster has survived in the NFL as a change of pace running back and wide receiver. He is definitely not someone you want starting for you on a regular basis, but that’s not why he would be brought in. He would be nothing more than a RB3, but would be able to fill a variety of different roles.

He would be used on gimmicky plays and is a mismatch weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. He would also factor in as a return man on special teams. He does have three punt returns in his career in the NFL and has experience as a kick returner as well.

He could be exactly what the Cowboys are looking for as a RB3 behind Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden.

Dri ArcherDri Archer (5’8″, 173)

Dri Archer is another intriguing option, but would come with some questionable decision-making on his part. He was a third-round draft pick by the  Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014, but ended up getting released in November 2015. He was picked up by the New York Jets, but that didn’t last long either. After being released by the Jets, the Buffalo Bills picked him up, but Archer never even bothered reporting to the team.

All of this would certainly put into question his commitment to the game and whether or not he really wants to pursue a career in the NFL. But, I personally would be willing to give him a shot in training camp to see where his head is at.

Archer would be one of the fastest players in the entire NFL (4.26 40 yard dash) and that speed could definitely be utilized in several different ways by the Dallas Cowboys. He could become the primary return man on both punts and kickoffs, while also taking over Lance Dunbar’s role on offense as a change of pace/receiving RB.

There are definitely questions that need to be answered, but the Cowboys could use a player with that kind of speed.

Ronnie HillmanRonnie Hillman (5’10”, 195)

Ronnie Hillman may just be the most proven option on this list. He had his best season in the NFL as a member of the 2015 Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos. He rushed for 863 yards on 207 attempts and added another 111 yards through the air with 24 receptions.

Hillman wouldn’t be asked to receive that kind of workload with the Cowboys, but he would add some valuable depth behind both Elliott and McFadden. He is a reliable target in the passing game, but is also capable of stepping in and carrying the load as a RB if needed.

Hillman has the speed to be home run threat and the zone blocking scheme that the Cowboys’ offensive line utilizes perfectly fits his strengths as a player. He may just be my favorite free-agent option for the Cowboys.

Jonathan GrimesJonathan Grimes (5’10”, 210)

There is really nothing special about Jonathan Grimes or what he has been able to accomplish in the NFL, but teams around the league like these kinds of players. He is a role player and knows his place on a roster depends on doing what is asked of him.

When given the opportunity, Grimes has proven that he can be a reliable threat in both the running and passing game on offense. He is a good fit in the zone blocking scheme and has the patience and vision be a threat the running game. He also possesses soft natural hands to contribute in the passing game.

Grimes is also a solid special-teams player, which the Cowboys like in their players, especially a RB3. He isn’t likely going to receive a lot of interest, so he could be brought in for next to nothing.

Dallas Cowboys: 5 Free Agent RB Options To Replace Lance Dunbar 5

Mandatory Credit: Jim Steve-USA TODAY Sports

Denard Robinson (6’0″, 213)

The Dallas Cowboys just drafted two Michigan players in 2017 NFL Draft, so why not bring in a former Wolverine to replace Lance Dunbar. Denard Robinson was a QB at Michigan, but hasn’t really been able to find his niche as of yet in the NFL.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were unsuccessful trying to find ways to get Robinson involved on offense, but I don’t think Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan would have that problem. In fact, Robinson’s background as a QB could allow Linehan to get even more creative with him than any other running back on this list.

I personally think Robinson could step in and do everything that was asked of Dunbar while he was a member of the Cowboys. I would be on board with bringing him to training camp to see if the Cowboys could tap into his natural physical abilities.

Do any of these free agent RB options make sense for the Dallas Cowboys?

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Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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12 Comments
  • Jess Haynie

    I really like the idea of Denard Robinson. I always liked the way Pittsburgh would use Randle-El for some trick plays throwing and it’d be cool to have that in our bag.

    • Brian Martin

      Jess, I thought the same thing. It would add yet another wrinkle to the Cowboys already potent offense.

      • M. Murdoch

        Jahad doesn’t have the speed Dri has 2 take it 2 the house!

        • Brian Martin

          I agree

  • Randy Martin

    I like some of the options here but feel they are going to see if they can develop Jahad Thomas into this role first. If successful I think they cut Morris and stay on that path. If not they may look at FA options such as these.

    • Brian Martin

      Randy, I completely agree. Thomas is a good receiver out of the backfield but isn’t at all what you would consider explosive. I think rookie minicamp will be big for him. And I don’t see any way Alfred Morris makes the team.

      • Randy Martin

        Yeah I read that Broaddus also made the comment that he isn’t suited to replace Dunbar. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Switzer in the backfield from time to time as he was a RB in high school and has all the traits for that position. Plus another way to have both him and Beas on the field and still have Witten.

        • Brian Martin

          I like the idea of getting Switzer involved in the offense, but I’m not sure about using him as a RB. Playing RB in high school is a lot different than playing RB in college and especially in the NFL. I would rather have someone with a more proven track record at the position.

          • Randy Martin

            Oh no I’m not at all talking about having him play RB. I’m just 5along about having him line up back there. I think you probably listed the best options for the true Dunbar role. The question is how much do they value the position. Aside from these, there will be a number of potential candidates released during cutdowns so plenty of options.

          • Brian Martin

            I think they will add another RB at some point this off-season. I don’t know if it is a current free agent or somebody that gets released, but there is a need. I think Alfred Morris’ days are numbered with the Cowboys.

  • M. Murdoch

    Speed kills man get the blazer!

    • Brian Martin

      I would give him a shot

Star Blog

Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Ryan Switzer see an Increased Offensive Role in 2018?

The Dallas Cowboys clearly had a specific role in mind for Ryan Switzer when they drafted him 133rd overall in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Come to find out, that role didn’t include being involved much on the offensive side of the ball, at least not as a rookie.

After watching the way the Cowboys utilized Ryan Switzer in 2017, it’s pretty obvious the sole purpose he was drafted was to improve the special-teams play in the return game.

They clearly didn’t envision him being a part of the game plan on offense, despite the continuous outcry from fans.

Like most rookies, Ryan Switzer didn’t really get off to a fast start, and took a while to get used to the speed of the NFL. But, once he calmed his nerves and regained his confidence, he proved to be an upgrade in the return game.

Switzer ended up ranking third in kickoff returns, averaging 25 yards per return in 2017 and 12th in punt returns with almost 9 yards per return.

He also became the first Dallas Cowboys player to return a punt for a touchdown since 2013. He accomplished this against the Washington Redskins, in Week 13 when he took an 83-yarder to the house.

Surprisingly enough, using Ryan Switzer solely as a return specialist wasn’t enough for a lot of Cowboys Nation. A lot of fans wanted to see his talents utilized more on the offensive side of the ball as well, but were only left disappointed.

Ryan Switzer

Dallas Cowboys WR Ryan Switzer

Getting Switzer involved in the offensive game plan just wasn’t in the cards in 2017.

He only managed to catch six passes for 41 yards and rushed four times for 5 yards. This isn’t exactly what Cowboys fans envisioned after hearing Switzer was opening a lot eyes in training camp and organized team activities (OTAs). That was the main problem.

He was hyped up so much heading into the season that fans expected to see him involved much more on offense.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, had something else in mind, but I doubt that’s the case for the upcoming 2018 season.

I really think we’re going to see an increased role for Ryan Switzer next season.

The Cowboys coaching staff should have a much better understanding of his strengths and weaknesses now that he has a year in the system under his belt. And, they’ve seen firsthand how explosive he can be with the ball in his hands.

What the Cowboys coaching staff will have to determine this offseason is just how big of a role Switzer will have next year.

Should Switzer take Cole Beasley‘s job?

Cole Beasley, like the rest of the Cowboys receivers, had a down year in 2017. We shouldn’t assume that his job is safe, especially with someone like Ryan Switzer waiting in the wings. But, is Switzer ready to take over full-time?

Tough decisions will have to be made eventually, but such is life in the NFL.

Will Ryan Switzer see an increased offensive role in 2018?

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Brian Martin

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Will Terrance Williams be Back with Cowboys in 2018?

Each offseason tough decisions have to be made by teams around the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys are no exception. Teams have to decide who to promote, who to demote, and who to cut ties with altogether. For the Cowboys, Terrance Williams fits into one of those three categories, but which one?

It was plainly obvious that the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers all had an extremely disappointing 2017 season.

Everybody has their own opinion as to why this happened, but one thing is for sure, the Cowboys coaching staff will definitely look at ways to get more out of their receiving core. The one player who I think could be affected most by whatever decision the coaching staff ends up making is Terrance Williams.

Williams didn’t do much to make a case for keeping his starting job in 2017, let alone sticking on the roster.

To say he had a disappointing season would be an understatement.

Williams finished the 2017 season with just 53 receptions for 568 receiving yards and absolutely zero touchdowns. The Cowboys were likely hoping for more production from someone they just signed to a four-year, $17-million contract extension back in March [2017].

Now, you can make the argument Williams took a team discount in order to stay in Dallas, but that doesn’t carry much weight when your production leaves so much to be desired. This is especially true when there might be somebody on the roster who can do just as well, and possibly be an upgrade.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Yes, if you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m talking about Noah Brown.

I know I’m not alone here, but I think Noah Brown could easily replace Terrance Williams’ production. I understand that there’s not much evidence to back up that statement based on Brown’s rookie season, but he has all the tools required to succeed.

This is really all about potential, and Noah Brown simply has more upside than Terrance Williams.

We all know what Terrance Williams is as a receiver, and what he brings to the table for the Cowboys offense. I believe Noah Brown can do all the things Williams does and has the potential to be even better.

I already think Noah Brown is a better blocker, something the Cowboys coaching staff really values about Williams. I also think Brown is a better pass catcher. He is a natural hands catcher and has a large catching radius, something Williams obviously isn’t (body catcher).

Right now, Williams is only better than Noah Brown in a few areas. He is slightly faster, he’s more advanced as a route runner, and has more experience. That’s about it.

This will obviously be a tough decision for the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff to make. But, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if we see Terrance Williams playing somewhere else when the 2018 season kicks off.

Do you think Terrance Williams will be with the Cowboys in 2018?

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Star Blog

Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?

Sean Martin

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Three of the four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs — a win away from the Super Bowl — ranked within the top four defensively in yards per game allowed this season. The other is the defending-champion New England Patriots, who of course were expected to reach yet another AFC Championship game, thanks to Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Somewhere between this field, losing their 2017 hopes at a deep playoff run to injuries, suspensions, and just poor execution at times, are the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys ranked eighth in yards allowed per game at 318.1 this season.

On the surface, all this provides hope that typically springs eternal around the league through the offseason.

It has been far too long since the Cowboys defense matched the skill level of the team’s offense, but Rod Marinelli’s unit (not exactly by design) outplayed that of Scott Linehan’s at times through this 9-7 campaign.

This defensive rebuild in Dallas began with the admission that this group had reached their ceiling in the offseason, as the Cowboys let long-time starters like CB Morris Claiborne, CB Brandon Carr, S Barry Church (now with the Jaguars), and S J.J. Wilcox go in free agency.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense?

Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods (AP Photo / Ron Jenkins)

For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, looking to turn over an entire secondary in a division featuring Carson Wentz, Eli Manning, and Kirk Cousins as quickly as the Cowboys did was a risky move. Their confidence in hitting on draft picks paid off though.

The Cowboys’ bright future is predicated on the likes of CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Jourdan Lewis, and S Xavier Woods.

With two young starters at cornerback, the sky truly is the limit the this Cowboys defense. And they’ll play in support of an offense with more than enough talent to return to form in 2018.

As it stands now under Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys defense is built to keep everything in front of them, and get bodies to the football. This coverage-friendly approach could be taken to new heights with Lewis and Awuzie on the outside, along with Anthony Brown finding a home in the slot. All three cornerbacks have excelled at using their speed, length, and technique to get their hands on passes.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 1

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Of course, games are won in the trenches, where the idea of the Cowboys defensive line ever rising to the level of their offensive line was laughable until recently. Whether it’s with the franchise tag or a long-term extension, sack-artist DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be an all-important member of this entire team moving forward.

A healthy Lawrence was a nightmare for opposing right tackles in 2017. He earned a national spotlight each week on his way to the quarterback 14-and-a-half times. Making it look easy at times, Lawrence is a refined rusher with the speed and power to win inside and out.

The RDE position remains a sore spot in need of talent as this Cowboys defense looks to take the next step, but there’s hope for the likes of Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper, and Taco Charlton to get the job done, along with veteran starter Tyrone Crawford.

With Crawford at RDE for much of 2017, running the ball against the Cowboys front was a tall order. His ability to capture the corner against left tackles came as a pleasant surprise to many, and once in position, the defensive captain chased down plenty of plays.

Tyrone Crawford wasn’t the only pleasant surprise on the Dallas Cowboys defensive line this season.

Rookie Taco Charlton looked like an entirely different player to close a first year in Dallas that began with completely uninspiring results. Charlton — having the physical traits to play at the next level — was never a question out of Michigan.

He may never be a player to take over games for a defense, which the Cowboys couldn’t have expected to find at DE selecting 28th overall, but an improved player at DE and DT could be an incredibly valuable asset for the Cowboys in 2018 and beyond.

This leaves the Cowboys linebacker corps, where we find the best example of young potential on the entire defense. Amazingly playing in all 16 games, LB Jaylon Smith is in line to take a massive step forward in year two.

Smith closed his season looking enticingly close to the player he was at Notre Dame, an encouraging sign as the Cowboys look to become less dependent on Sean Lee on this side of the ball.

Lee and Smith paired together would give the Cowboys a middle-of-the-field presence to rival the best in the league. Both players have exceptional range and awareness to run down plays from sideline to sideline.

Anthony Hitchens, an impending free agent, is another valuable piece at LB with his ready ability to play all three positions at a relatively high level.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

Stefon Diggs racing to the end zone with no time left to send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game will be the lasting image of this past Divisional Round weekend, an offensive play that will live on forever.

A closer look at these games and the teams that survived them reveals a collective trust in defenses, a trust the Cowboys could be blissfully close to with their own young defense.

The Cowboys are likely losing one of the smarter minds behind their defense in recent years, with Matt Eberflus ticketed for Josh McDaniel’s staff, and are still in need of a secondary coach after not retaining Joe Baker. In a league where better talent typically prevails though, the possibility of the Cowboys building a championship defense for next season and beyond may not be far off.

With defenses in Jacksonville and Philadelphia providing the hope that both teams can pull off the impossible and reach the Super Bowl on Sunday, will defensive potential be enough for Dallas to get through this long offseason and start the even longer path back to their first NFC Championship game in 21 seasons?

Tell us what you think about “Are the Dallas Cowboys Building a Championship Defense?” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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