Despite no official word from the man himself, Ezekiel Elliott, there seems to be quite a bit of speculation he could be a holdout when the Dallas Cowboys report to training camp. I honestly have a hard time seeing Zeke pull such a stunt, but the Cowboys need a plan B in place just in case.
As the league’s leading rusher two out of the last three years, Ezekiel Elliott is no easy RB to replace. There is absolutely no way the Dallas Cowboys can find a ballcarrier capable of handling the same kind of responsibilities as he has the past three years, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have options. That’s what I want to take a look at today.
Let’s get started…
Option 1: Roll the Dice With the Current Backups
The most obvious, and most likely, plan B option for the Dallas Cowboys is to just stick with the status quo and roll the dice with their current backups. They do have some intriguing running backs behind Ezekiel Elliott on the depth chart, but most of them are all young and unproven.
Rookie RB Tony Pollard is expected to be the RB2 behind Zeke this season, but he is more suited as a change of pace back. It’s unlikely Dallas would ask him to handle the same kind of workload #21 has. In fact, Pollard has never been that kind of RB, even during his time at Memphis. The next logical choice may be his fellow rookie draft mate, Mike Weber
Weber is more suited to be in every down type back in the NFL. He is more accustomed to a heavier workload, having played such a role for the Buckeyes during his time at Ohio State. He did end up splitting time with J.K. Dobbins the last few years, but he is probably better suited to play the workhorse role than any other RB behind Zeke on the depth chart.
I think the only other options currently on the roster the Dallas Cowboys would consider is Darius Jackson or Jamize Olawale. After all, they are the only two RBs who have received a meaningful carry in the NFL. To date, Jackson has a grand total of six carries for 16 yards on his resume and Olawale has a total of 55 carries for 206 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Neither have been all that productive, but their experience could prove invaluable.
If Zeke does hold out, and they stick with their current stable of RBs, the Dallas Cowboys will likely go to more of a committee approach as far as their running game is concerned.
Option 2: Sign a Veteran RB
The next most likely option for the Dallas Cowboys if Zeke holds out is to sign a veteran running back. This means they more than likely aren’t all that comfortable with the current RBs on the roster or they simply view what they can still get on the open market as a slight upgrade.
Unfortunately, the vet RBs still available at this point in the year isn’t all that inspiring. Jay Ajayi is arguably the best option, but he missed the last 12 games of the 2018 season with a knee injury. If 100% healthy though there’s little doubt he wouldn’t be the best alternative available to replace Zeke if it comes to that.
The only other vet RBs worth considering for the Cowboys would be LeGarrette Blount or Jacquizz Rogers. Both players have found some success in the NFL, but I’m not exactly sure either could be considered a surefire upgrade over what Dallas already has on the roster.
Sadly, that’s about the Cowboys only options as far as available veteran ball carriers go.
Option 3: Trade for a RB
Trading for a running back seems like the least likely option for the Dallas Cowboys if Ezekiel Elliott chooses to sit out training camp. If it came to this, it clearly means the Cowboys don’t like their current options behind Zeke, including the two rookie RBs they invested drafts pick on, or what’s available on the open market.
If I were the Cowboys, I’d be looking to teams who are currently deep at the RB position. The New England Patriots immediately popped into my head as a possible trade partner. They’ve invested a first-round pick (Sony Michel) at the position last year and a third-round pick (Damien Harris) this year. They also still have veterans James White and Rex Burkhead.
The Patriots are known as a team willing to trade away any of their unwanted assets, and if the Cowboys are looking to make a deal I think I’d target Rex Burkhead. If New England is indeed willing to part ways with him, it likely wouldn’t take more than a 2020 late-round draft pick.
This of course is just a potential option, but not the only one. There are other vet RBs the Cowboys could potentially trade for if they choose to go that direction.