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Will Cowboys Need to Make any Changes at RB/FB During 2021 Offseason?

The Dallas Cowboys’ business at running back could be pretty simple in the 2021 offseason. As we continue our Position Preview series, we’ll look at how all of the talent from last year is under contract and could allow the team to just run it back with the same group next season.

“Could” is the operative word in that sentence. While Dallas has that option, SHOULD they stand pat at the RB and FB positions or take advantage of any opportunities for current or future upgrades?

Here’s the group as currently constituted:

2021 Running Back & Fullback Contract Statuses

  • RB Signed
    • Rico Dowdle
    • Ezekiel Elliott
    • Tony Pollard
  •  FB Signed
    • Jamize Olawale
    • Sewo Olonilua
  • Free Agents
    • NONE
U = Unrestricted, R = Restricted, E = Exclusive Rights

Ezekiel Elliott is still in the early stages of the multiyear contract he signed in 2019. Tony Pollard is halfway through his four-year rookie contract, while Rico Dowdle and Sewo Olonilua are still with the team following their undrafted rookie years in 2020.

Jamize Olawale is scheduled to return to the Cowboys in 2021 after opting out last year under the COVID-19 policy. We don’t know yet what the pandemic will mean for the 2021 season, but right now we can only work with the assumption that Jamize will be back.

Again, this sets the stage for Dallas to do very little at either the RB or FB positions this offseason. They have a full crew under contract and may even be protected against another opt-out by Olawale thanks to having Olonilua.

Elliott and Pollard are the clear one-two punch for the Cowboys run game in 2021. Even if there are worries about Zeke’s long-term viability with his massive contract, there’s no benefit to the salary cap by cutting him this year. 2022 will provide the first reasonable opportunity to get out from the deal.

The hope is that you won’t want to shed the contract after this season. If Dallas gets the offensive line back in order and has Dak Prescott running the show again on offense, Elliott will hopefully return to form and justify his significant cap hit.

With no realistic scenario for Zeke leaving the RB1 spot in 2021, that leaves Tony Pollard as a highly capable backup and change-of-pace option. And with Pollard signed through 2022, that gives the Cowboys freedom to not worry about investing much in the position until next season at the earliest.

Rico Dowdle
Dallas Cowboys RB Rico Dowdle

Rico Dowdle is another cause for comfort on the RB depth chart. Though he only got seven touches on offense last year, Dowdle shined on special teams both as a kick returner and in coverage units. While he may get some competition for the bottom of the roster, those traits will make him hard to beat.

At fullback, I’m intrigued to see what Jamize Olawale could do as Kellen Moore continues to grow as offensive coordinator and with Mike McCarthy’s influence. Olawale has proven in his career that he can do damage if you get him the ball, and McCarthy’s Green Bay offenses often had some of the league’s most productive fullbacks.

Sewo Olonilua was also effective as an offensive weapon during his TCU days and spent last year on Dallas’ practice squad. He began to conversion to fullback last year and could be ready to compete for the job now.

Dallas got by most of last year with a lot of single-back formations or using their tight ends as backfield blockers. They may not feel a great need to keep a true FB on the roster now, but there’s no denying that Ezekiel Elliott’s best days were when there was a proficient lead blocker running ahead of him.

That could push the Cowboys to look for a fullback this offseason. If they’re not sure about Olawale’s desire to return or Olonilua’s ability to step up, perhaps they look to a veteran free agent to solidify the position.

It’s hard to estimate the value that Dallas places on fullback in 2021 as our past data is mainly from the Jason Garrett Era. Who knows what McCarthy and Moore had thought to do with Olawale before COVID-19 took him off the roster?

So yes, Dallas may be just fine with who they have at FB and RB and not spend any additional resources this offseason. Other than bringing in some bottom-tier free agents or undrafted rookies as training camp bodies, this should be a relatively quiet spot for the roster in 2021.

Given the turmoil at other positions, that isn’t a bad thing.

~ ~ ~

Other Cowboys 2021 Position Previews

QB | WR | TE | OT | G | C

DE | DT | LB | CB | S

Special Teams

(Click the position above to jump to article. Links will become active as articles are published.)

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

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!

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  1. I know this year there is nothing we can do regarding Zeke’s contract situation. Only outlet would be a trade. Not sure there would be any takers. I believe Dallas can only keep Dak or Zeke, so Cowboys have wiggle room to pay for other positions and have a balanced team.

  2. IDK what to think of Zeke , he’s a guy who had 3 great seasons , the problem now is that it ? As it’s been shown multiple times through many different teams , RBs don’t last very long , ask the Rams about Gurley , i remember just a few years ago he was in MVP conversation , now the Rams just gave him away , and look at their run game now with Akers , i can’t help but wonder if we’re better off moving on to someone else at RB with the abundance of RBs that you can get cheap in drafts , Chubb was 2nd rounder , Taylor was a 2nd rounder , you got undrafted guys like Lindsay and Robinson.

    From what i see in games from Zeke , he has no break away speed , lacks burst through the hole and that was before this last season too , i noticed the season before too , he looks more like a old Darren McFadden than he does a Derrick Henry or an ELITE RB ,ppl forget that McFadden had a 1000 rushing yards the season before we got Zeke , which him coupled with the fact that we got Alfred Morris in free agency who came off a decent year with the WFT , I WAS ADAMANT THAT THE COWBOYS SHOULD GET JALEN RAMSEY IN DRAFT and thought we were gonna get Ramsey when Joey Bosa was picked by the Chargers with the 3rd pick and we had 4th pick , but it ended up being Zeke , we’ll see how long term if it was good to pick Zeke or should we have picked Ramsey ?

    Now back to the present , I think for now we have no choice but to roll with Zeke , but depending on what happens next year , we should look to trade him or if he isn’t playing good , we may need to take a page out of the Rams playbook and just cut him loose like how they did Gurley

  3. We all hoped that EE could return to his old great self, but it appears that, as TUTX88 said, he no longer has long speed (for two years now) and his burst is very sporadic at best. In that first game against Rams, he looked good, but after, then the fumbles and not finishing runs. He did show up in a couple of other games, but certainly not consistently. I think he ran for a lot of yards at Ohio St and, of course, the first three years as a Cowboy. Maybe he is just done. I thought Dowdle would look better than what I saw. Pollard has looked pretty good, but is he a lead back? Time to dip in to the draft or FA to augment this position

  4. I definitely think Zeke has contributed more to the team’s wins than Ramsey contributes to his team’s wins. If Ramsey is the standard, and his contract says he is, it should be compared to McCaffrey’s contract not Zeke’s. Over 7K yards from scrimmage and 48TDs in 4yrs seems to be pretty good production. BTW, let’s see what Henry’s contract gonna look like.

  5. The problem is CB doesn’t directly contribute to winning , you can have the best of the best at 1 CB but if your other CB and Safeties are trash , if you don’t have good D-Line or don’t have QB that can go down the field and score and help your D by keeping them on sideline , then it’s all for naught. Like i said , we’ll see which is better LONG TERM , for 4 years so far yes Zeke was better pick but what about 8 years ? It remains to be seen.

    Look at the Rams , they ate 20.15 million in dead cap cuz of them cutting Gurley, and for rn there run game looks WAY BETTER , so what would stop Cowboys from doing same ?

  6. The benefit of cutting Zeke maybe to send a much needed message to the rest of the roster oh crap if I don’t produce they will find someone that will

  7. Jerry made several mistakes with Zeke. One he drafted him too high. It’s been proven time and again u can get good RBs later in the draft. Three of the best backs in the league D Cook/D Henry/A Kamara were drafted in the 2nd or 3rd rd

    His second mistake was letting Zeke hold him hostage and forcing him to sign him with TWO years left on his contract.

    His third mistake was signing Zeke to a 2nd contract. RBs seldom give you a good return on ur investment in the 2nd contract. RBs generally have 4-5 good years in them. After that u go get another one.

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