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Salary Cap Crunch: Do Cowboys Go With 2-time Pro Bowler Or Former RD1 Pick?

Brian Martin

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Could This Former Pro Bowl Player Be A Cowboys Salary Cap Casualty?

The Dallas Cowboys, like every other team in the NFL have to abide by the salary cap rules whether they like it or not. Sometimes that means they have to make some tough decisions regarding their roster and 2017 should be no different. The Cowboys cap casualties have yet to be announced, but one player that might be feeling a little nervous about his time with America's Team is coming to an end is backup running back, Alfred Morris.

The former Washington Redskin and two-time Pro Bowl running back was signed to a two-year, $3.5 million contract in 2016 by the Cowboys. Alfred Morris was expected to form a 1-2 punch with the former 2008 first-round draft pick, Darren McFadden.

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was short-lived with the selection of Ezekiel Elliott in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Elliott went on to have one of the best seasons for a rookie running back in the history of the NFL. Morris was Elliott's backup for the majority of the season, but was made inactive once McFadden made his return from his elbow injury that wiped out the majority of his 2016 season.

McFadden is now a free agent, while Morris is in the last year of his contract and could end up being one of the Cowboys cap casualties, saving them $1.6 million in 2017. That $1.6 million savings could be used to bring back Darren McFadden, who seems to be a favorite of the Cowboys coaching staff.

Let's dive into this little bit deeper though to determine who might be the better fit.

RB Alfred Morris: 2-Time Pro Bowler

Potential Cowboys cap casualties: RB Alfred MorrisAlfred Morris is a two-time Pro Bowl player and has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark three out of five years in his NFL career. He's not the biggest or fastest running back in the NFL, but he is a good fit to run in the zone blocking scheme that the Cowboys offense uses the majority of the time.

Morris' willingness to remain patient in the running game allows the blocks in front of him to develop. When he sees a crease, he puts his foot in the ground and relies on his vision and low center of gravity to pick up his yardage. He's not going to break many long runs because of his lack of top end speed. Instead, he is more of the type of RB that will wear defenses down throughout the ballgame.

Another plus about Alfred Morris is his ability to stay healthy. He has never missed a game in his NFL career because of injuries.

Unfortunately, Morris really isn't a three down player. He's not a very good pass catcher out of the backfield and he also really struggles in pass protection. These are some of his biggest flaws as a player, especially with the Cowboys who like to utilize their RBs in the passing game.

It's Alfred Morris' flaws as a player that could make him one of the Dallas Cowboys cap casualties.

RB Darren McFadden: Former First Round Draft Pick

Potential Cowboys cap casualties: RB Darren McFaddenDarren McFadden is the more talented of the two players, which is why he was drafted so highly in the 2008 NFL Draft to begin with.

McFadden has never been voted into the Pro Bowl and has only eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark twice in his NFL career. He is a downhill runner and that would probably be a better fit in a power blocking scheme. But, he has already proven that he can be effective running behind the Cowboys impressive offensive line.

With the exception of Ezekiel Elliott, Darren McFadden is the most complete back the Cowboys have had the last few seasons. He is an underrated receiver out of the backfield and is excellent in pass protection. He may not have the breakaway speed that he once had earlier in his career, but he can still challenge defenses out on the edge.

His biggest flaw is the fact that he has struggled to remain healthy during his nearly decade-long career in the NFL. This is a little bit worrisome because the Cowboys will need a RB that they don't have to worry about being available when needed.

Despite what his size would suggest, McFadden isn't going to pick up a lot of those tough yards in short yardage situations. He doesn't run with a lot of power and tries to run away from defenders instead of delivering the blow.

Which Player Has Most Continued Upside With The Cowboys?

Generally when you compare players and analyze their future upside with their respective team, their age comes into play. Alfred Morris (28) is younger than Darren McFadden (29), but I believe McFadden still has more upside for the Dallas Cowboys.

McFadden is a more complete running back that can stay on the field for all three downs. Plus, he has already proven that he can be the workhorse back for the Cowboys offense. You may have forgotten, but in 2015 he started 10 games for the Cowboys and finished fourth in the NFL with 1,089 rushing yards.

We never really got a chance to see what Alfred Morris could do as the featured back for the Cowboys in 2016. But, given the small sample size we saw last year, he didn't inspire a lot of confidence that he could handle the job as well as McFadden did in 2015.

Verdict: Darren McFadden

Who Survives The Cowboys Cap Casualties Game In 2017?

As things stand right now, the running back that survives the Cowboys cap casualties has to be Alfred Morris. He is still under contract for the upcoming 2017 season, while Darren McFadden will test his market value and contemplate his offers from other teams in free agency.

Having said all of that, I believe the Dallas Cowboys would prefer to have Darren McFadden return over Alfred Morris. Once McFadden returned to the lineup last year, he pretty much made Morris an afterthought.

The Cowboys coaching staff clearly values McFadden's ability to be a three down player and his veteran leadership. So, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he is the one they try and make a part of the 2017 plans if they had to decide between the two players.

Verdict: Alfred Morris because he is under contract.

Who do you think the Cowboys should go with, Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden?



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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Cowboys to Use 5th-Year Option on Ezekiel Elliott’s Contract

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott, Rams

To nobody's surprise, the Dallas Cowboys intend to exercise the fifth-year option on star Running Back Ezekiel Elliott's contract. This will keep Zeke signed with the Cowboys through the 2020 season.

The deadline for teams to use the options years on the draft class of 2016 is Thursday, May 2nd, just a few days following the 2019 NFL Draft.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on the team eventually exercising the fifth-year option on Ezekiel Elliott's contract: "Obviously we're gonna do it.

It's appropriate that Stephen said "obviously," because there is no reason for the Cowboys not to utilize this provision. It's one of the perks of drafting a player in the first round; the option does not apply to any other rookie deals.

Right now, the 2020 option year projects to pay Elliott around $10 million. That is a bargain considering other franchise backs like Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, and David Johnson are all now averaging $13-$14 million per season.

In fact, it may be more of a discount than Zeke is willing to give. He may very well holdout if the team doesn't give him a new contact closer to his market value.

For all we know, the Cowboys have every intention of doing just that. This move is little more than a formality; a placeholder that prevents Elliott from entering unrestricted free agency in 2020 and secures his rights while a new deal is negotiated.



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Connor Williams Adding Size and Strength Huge for Cowboys OL

John Williams

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All-22 Notes: Connor Williams Stands Out in Wild Card Win

It's no secret that heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the book on Connor Williams coming out of Texas was that he didn't have enough length to play tackle in the NFL and didn't have enough bulk to play guard. At least not at first.

It was an issue we saw play out early in the 2018 season as he struggled with some of the more powerful defensive tackles. He struggled so much that the team went to Xavier Su'a-Filo during his injury and for a couple games after he was healthy, thinking they had a better option. After having a bit of time to sit back and watch, Williams came back into the starting lineup with a better feel for that power and was much improved over the last half of the season, including the playoffs. He never relinquished his job again.

Though he played better, it was obvious what his number one offseason focus would be; adding size and strength. According to Dallas Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones, he's done just that.

Speaking to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday afternoon, Jones gave us some insight into how Williams is looking this offseason.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on offensive lineman Connor Williams, last year's second round pick: "My understanding is that he's taken some huge steps in terms of his strength and size. My understanding is that he's put on some really good weight.

Jones then added some lofty expectations on the second year guard from the University of Texas.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones on @1053thefan: "I think Connor Williams is gonna be a mainstay in our offensive line for many years to come. ... I think we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line.

Connor Williams was already proving himself capable of standing up to powerful defensive lineman as late in the season and in the playoffs, but this is very encouraging to hear as we look to 2019.

Against the Seattle Seahawks and the Los Angeles Rams, Williams and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys interior offensive line had big challenges in front of them. Seattle's Jarran Reed and Los Angeles' Aaron Donald were two of the better defensive tackles in 2018. Donald, is considered by many, the best defensive player in the NFL because of his brute strength that is matched by his quickness.

Against both players, Williams performed well. Not perfect, but well enough to be encouraged about what Williams could bring in 2019. Per Pro Football Focus, he only allowed five total pressures during the playoffs, including one in the divisional round against the Rams. There's a reason that everyone is so high on Williams heading into his second year.

The front office included.

Stephen Jones praise is significant. The Dallas Cowboys feature three All-Pro offensive lineman. To say that "we'll be talking about him just like we do several of the other players on our offensive line" is very high praise. There aren't many teams in the NFL that boast as much talent along the offensive line as the Dallas Cowboys do in Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick. For Jones to think Williams cold be that level of player doesn't sound like generic front office speak.

With a full year under his belt, including two playoff starts, Williams should be confident heading into his second year. Adding strength and weight will help him anchor better against the strong interiors he'll face weekly in the NFL. Getting Center Travis Frederick back in the lineup will help him with the mental aspect of the game.

There's a lot to be excited about with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019 and the offensive line remains one of those things. How Connor Williams improves from year one to year two will be one of the major storylines throughout the offseason heading toward week one. The Cowboys offensive line remains a focal point for America's Team and all eyes will be on Williams as he looks to make the second year jump.



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La’el Collins Has Surgery Ahead of Contract Year

Mauricio Rodriguez

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La'el Collins

The list of injured Dallas Cowboys players getting surgery keeps getting larger. DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones will welcome La'el Collins to the "surgery recovery" group chat after Collins had a procedure to repair a torn rotator cuff.  According to the report from Forth-Worth Star Telegram, Collins suffered the injury at the end of the 2018 season.

La'el Collins expects to be ready for training camp, but don't expect much from him in the upcoming offseason program.

For Collins, this is a very meaningful season. At 25 years old, he's heading into a contract year in 2019. So far, his career has been decent at best. He began playing at guard, where he showed some pretty impressive flashes before moving to right tackle, where he's started since 2017.

Even before it was reported that he would have surgery, many in Cowboys Nation have wondered about his future. The truth is, since he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, his career hasn't lived up to the hype. Prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, an off-the-field misunderstanding made every team pass on him. However, he was seen by many as a top prospect in the class and was a projected first round pick.

Although he improved when Marc Colombo took over as the OL coach, Collins has struggled during his time at right tackle. At this point, he hasn't earned a long term deal.

La'el Collins' Toughness And Availability Earning High Praise

Right now, the Cowboys should see offensive tackle as a need in the NFL Draft. Not a priority one, but definitely one to watch out for in the later rounds. Tyron Smith is 28 years old, but his injury history doesn't look promising at all. I can definitely see this team addressing the lack of depth at the position at some point in Day 3.

This whole discussion raises yet another question. Would the Cowboys trade La'el Collins? I don't think it would happen, but it doesn't sound like a terrible idea either. At the moment, Cameron Fleming is on the roster and he isn't a bad starter. Now granted, he might be a downgrade from Collins. However, if you're able to get a good draft pick in exchange, it's worth considering. Use Fleming as a bridge player between for a younger one down the line.

Connor Williams could also move over to tackle, although I doubt they want to try experiments like this with a young player just like they did with La'el Collins. Let Williams grow as a guard and keep him there.

La'el Collins or not, the Cowboys have a need at offensive tackle and Collins' makes it even more evident. The good news is he expects to be back by training camp and doesn't seem like a huge question mark for week 1 as DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones do.

Tell me what you think about "La’el Collins Has Surgery Ahead of Contract Year" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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