With Ezekiel Elliott rejoining the Dallas Cowboys today after resolving his contract dispute, the team is now at 54 players on the active roster. That will have to change before kickoff on Sunday against the New York Giants; who will be leaving the Cowboys to make room for Zeke?
It’s a safe bet that the cut will come from the running back position. Dallas only kept Tony Pollard and Alfred Morris on their initial roster Saturday, then added Jordan Chunn on Monday only after Zeke’s holdout continued into the week.
You might assume that Chunn, as the last man in, would be the one getting released now. But this decision isn’t so black and white; several factors are involved that decide who is most valuable to the Cowboys going forward.
The biggest issue of all is special teams. For years, Dallas running backs like Rod Smith and Phillip Tanner have found work by being standouts in roles on kickoffs and punt teams. Better pure runners were out there to be had, but the Cowboys wanted players who could help them every week rather than sitting on the bench as unused insurance policies.
Special teams is where the line gets drawn between Alfred Morris and Jordan Chunn. Dallas loves Morris’ veteran experience and fit into their offensive scheme, but he has zero value on special teams. Meanwhile, Chunn was a standout special teamer this offseason in the mold of Smith and Tanner before him.
If Dallas is going to struggle to find touches for Morris behind Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, how much is he really worth? How much worse does that become if he’s also not contributing on special teams?
You might argue that the Cowboys could keep both running backs, perhaps cutting one of their extra offensive linemen or some other player to allow Elliott to rejoin the roster. That would give you Morris as superior RB depth and keep Chunn around for special teams. Problem solved, right?
Remember, there are only 46 spots on game days for active players. Having all four RBs active, plus fullback Jamize Olawale, would be a tight squeeze. It’s more likely that Morris would have to sit out games as an inactive player.
That means Dallas would just be carrying Alfred on the roster in case something happened to Zeke or Pollard. And he couldn’t even help you in that game; it would be the following week before Dallas could make use of his services.
Frankly, it just doesn’t add up.
As much as we all like Alfred Morris as a player and person, there just doesn’t seem to be a place for him now. Remember, he only joined the Cowboys this year after Zeke’s holdout began. Dallas wanted a veteran RB who had experience with the playbook to help them get through practices.
But now Zeke’s back, and young runners like Pollard, Chunn, and Mike Weber (on the practice squad) have the Cowboys covered for all present needs. Hanging on to Morris doesn’t make sense with the constraints of game day and overall roster limits.
Considering he was still on the open market about a month ago, there’s a good chance that Alfred Morris would be available in free agency if Dallas needs him down the road. Dallas can call the Bat Phone and get him back on the roster in no time.
The move doesn’t have to come today; Dallas will get a roster exemption for the rest of the week for Zeke to practice with the team as the 54th player. But by game time on Sunday, I expect the Cowboys will release Alfred Morris.
But throughout the 2019 season, he may just be a phone call away.