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What is Dallas’ Future at Fullback?

Jess Haynie



Cowboys Headlines - What is Dallas' Future at Fullback?

Where did fullback rank among your biggest offseason concerns for the Cowboys? I doubt it was anyone's top five. What about your top ten? Was it somewhere between the sixth cornerback and backup punter?

Cowboys Blog - Moose Season: Daryl Johnston Owns #48 5Much forgotten in the modern NFL, the fullback position is one that most fans give little to no thought to. Though I imagine this is true for many in Cowboys Nation, I would also propose that Dallas fans are more likely to have concern for it than the average NFL follower. The reason for that is a beloved figure from our not-so-distant past.

Ask Cowboys fans from the 90s who their favorite player was and you'll often hear one of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, or Michael Irvin. Some, though, will avoid the cliche answers and tell you that it was Daryl "Moose" Johnston. The lead blocker on Emmitt's path to the NFL record for career rushing yards, Johnston was the blue collar hero on one of the flashiest teams in league history.

Six years ago, Emmitt tearfully reminded the world how important Moose was to him and to what he'd achieved in his Hall of Fame speech. Johnston also remains visible thanks to his commentary job with FOX Sports. He is both a reminder and a relic of what the fullback position once was.

For the last two years and part of 2013, Dallas has employed Tyler Clutts as their fullback. He has just one catch in each of the last two seasons. However, he's also been involved in helping DeMarco Murray and Darren McFadden have league-leading rushing yardage.

Dallas will often utilize a second tight end instead of a fullback or go with single-back formations, making Clutts only a part-time member of the offense. He has never been particularly noteworthy in his play, other than a touchdown in the 2014 playoff loss to Green Bay. Clutts made a bad early impression with Cowboys fans by missing a block that led to a major injury to Tony Romo in 2013.

Last year Clutts was an unrestricted free agent and Dallas did not initially bring him back, instead signing free agents Jed Collins and Ray Agnew. They surprisingly cut Collins in mid-May and brought back Clutts, who eventually kept his job for all of 2015. Now they find themselves back to deciding between a return for Clutts or trying to find a better option.

Jason Garrett has always had a true fullback on his roster since becoming head coach, so I doubt they will abandon it completely. Dallas may elect to just bring Clutts back again and go for continuity. There is certainly benefit to him being able to read and predict the offensive linemen as much as there is for the running back behind him.

Cowboys Headlines - What is Dallas' Future at Fullback? 1If they again look to free agency, Dallas could consider Will Johnson from the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is four years younger than Clutts and has been blocking for one of the NFL's better rushing attacks the last few years. There are some older veteran options such as John Kuhn and Will Tukuafu, coming from the Packers and Seahawks respectively. Cory Harkey, who just finished blocking for Todd Gurley's monster season in St. Louis, is also available.

If they do not fill the fullback spot then Dallas will likely ask James Hanna, who just re-signed with the team for three years, to handle the backfield blocking. They will be paying Hanna close to $3 million per year so finding more ways to get him on the field would make sense. Perhaps the idea of utilizing him as the fullback was why they were willing to offer that contract.

Again, this is far from the greatest issue pressing the Cowboys right now. They could leave it open all offseason and likely find a serviceable option sometime just before training camp or even in August.

Still, the old Moose lover in me is always more comfortable when there's a solid guy leading the way for our running back. Maybe it's an outdated philosophy, but we've never been as successful without it.

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

  • Randy Martin

    Of the names you listed Will Johnson and Cory Harkey are the names I like the most. Pretty sure Kuhn will retire a Packer. A guy I like in the 6th round would be Dan Vitale. He looks like he can offer something just besides blocking.

    • Jess Haynie

      I like them, too. Harkey has some solid receiving ability. I miss when we used to have Richie Anderson going out into the flat for some solid gains.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys Have Missing Piece at Offensive Line

Jess Haynie



Dallas Cowboys Have Big Hole on Offensive Line
Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

There are a lot of positions being talked about right now for the Dallas Cowboys. Upgrades are needed at several spots, but one critical position needs even more than that. Left guard is completely unmanned, and that could be a big problem for the 2018 offensive line if it's not addressed soon.

Last year's starter, Jonathan Cooper, is currently an unrestricted free agent. So are backups Joe Looney and Byron Bell.

Right now, Chaz Green is the only other non-starter under contract who has any NFL experience at left guard. Nobody wants to see him on the field next year.

Dez Bryant may be a big topic but at least he's under contract. The same goes for safety, where we at least have options to turn to if free agency or the draft don't yield anything.

Left guard, though? The cupboard is bare.

La'el Collins' Position Flex Could Come in Handy for Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys OT La'el Collins

One option could be to move La'el Collins back to guard, where many feel he has the most upside, and then find a new right tackle. But that would be changing two positions to fill one hole, and Collins was playing well at tackle by the end of the year.

And obviously, we don't want to see Chaz Green playing that spot either. Or any spot. Ever.

No, at this point it makes sense for Dallas to leave Collins where he is and either sign or draft a starting LG. The question is how much do they want to invest?

The Cowboys are already shelling out big bucks to Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin. Even Collins counts about $7 million against the cap. They have three first-round picks already tied up in the offensive line.

Some thought veteran free agent Josh Sitton would be a nice option, but he got picked up by the Dolphins today for about $8-9 million per year. That's more than Dallas can afford given their limited cap space and other needs.

No, the LG in 2018 is going to need to be a salary cap bargain. That means either re-signing Jonathan Cooper or Joe Looney on the cheap, or perhaps paying a rookie salary to a high draft pick.

Last year's 19th overall pick, O.J. Howard, counted just $2 million against the Bucs' salary cap in 2017.

There are some older veterans who could be cheap band-aid options, such as Matt Slauson or Evan Smith. But you don't get very far down some lists of available guards before you see Jonathan Cooper's name, and continuity is always a plus.

The point here is don't expect any big move, even with the enormity of the need. Dallas will likely reach an agreement with Cooper after he's tested the free agent waters a bit, assuming nobody else scoops him up.

If not, the need at left guard will become increasingly dire the further we get into the offseason.

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Player News

Dallas Cowboys Restructure Travis Frederick’s Contract, Clear Cap Space

Sean Martin



Travis Frederick

Patience is a virtue for football fans everywhere this time of the year, especially those of the Dallas Cowboys. A team known for using free agency to deal with their own expiring contracts and players, Cowboys Nation has been anxiously awaiting an addition to improve this roster before the draft. While the wait will continue for outside help in Dallas, the Cowboys have created $7.5 million in cap space by restructuring the contract of Center Travis Frederick.

Jane Slater on Twitter

C Travis Frederick will restructure his deal to help clear up roughly 7.5M in cap space for the #Cowboys per source informed

Restructuring the contracts of their cornerstone players is nothing new for the Cowboys. Rarely doing so with a clear "next move" in sight, the market for top FA talent at WR and OL may have already passed the Cowboys.

Having the space to negotiate with available players now opens the door just slightly further for Earl Thomas or Tyrann Mathieu acquisitions to become realistic. Reportedly, the Cowboys have inquired about both safeties (Thomas via popular trade talks and Mathieu as a free agent, released by the Cardinals) and have been met with price tags the Jones' were forced to turn away.

Giving up assets for players that will warrant large future contracts is not currently the Dallas Cowboys' way, but being able to sign somebody in free agency has been. To avoid a repeat of 2017, a season arguably derailed as soon as the team's free agent class failed entirely, the Cowboys will need to find proven players that can contribute on the market in the coming weeks.

With the help of the anchor to their star-studded offensive line, the Cowboys can come to this market with slightly thicker wallets now. Keep the optimistic tweets alive, and tip Travis Frederick accordingly.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Restructure Travis Frederick’s Contract, Clear Cap Space" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Player News

Cowboys Place 2nd Round RFA Tender on DL David Irving

Jess Haynie



David Irving

One of the more anticipated Cowboys free agency moves has finally happened. Defensive lineman David Irving has been given the 2nd-round Restricted Free Agent tender, which would result in a $2.91 million contract for 2018.

David Moore on Twitter

Source: the Cowboys have used a 2nd round tender on DT David Irving. The cost is $2.91 million.

If another team offers Irving a contract, that would have to send their 2018 second-round draft pick to the Cowboys.

There was no doubt that Dallas would extend an RFA tender to Irving, one of the bright young stars on their defense. The question was at what amount; they could have gone with the $4.1 million tender which raises the compensation to a first-round draft pick.

With a difference of only about $1 million, some might argue that the Cowboys went lower to entice other teams to try to sign Irving. Perhaps they don't foresee giving him a big long-term deal next year, so want to get something for him now.

It's a logical argument, and one that means there may be more to this story before the offseason ends. For now, though, David Irving's closer to remaining a Cowboy than he was yesterday.

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