By Joe Randolph
After visiting with the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, former Washington Redskins RB Alfred Morris announced Tuesday morning that he would be joining the Cowboys for the 2016 season.
The 27-year-old Morris ran for 1,613 yards his rookie season. But his production has dropped off each season since. In 2015 he gained only 806 yards and just one touchdown, both career lows.
At first glance, it appears the Cowboys are picking up a player that his seen better days. That may be the case, but the two year, $5.5 million deal with $2 million guaranteed is team friendly enough to where it won’t sting if that’s true.
While he may not necessarily be a 1,600 yard back anymore, the Cowboys don’t really need him to be. Veteran Darren McFadden was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lugubrious 4-12 season in 2015.
The former Arkansas standout, who will be 29 at the start of the season, is coming off of a 1,089 rushing yards last season, good enough for 4th in the NFL. This was accomplished despite not starting until week 7, and playing the vast majority of the season without the two key components of their offense, QB Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant.
Morris will also benefit from what many consider the best offensive line in the NFL. The team with the worst record in the NFC sent 3 starting offensive lineman to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. This unit will only be strengthened with Romo and Bryant healthy. This will make the running game even more effective, giving McFadden and Morris the opportunity to gobble up more yards.
The smart thing for the Cowboys to do would be to harken back to their teams of 2006 and 2007. In those years, they had not one good RB but two, Julius Jones and Marion Barber.
Jones was the starter. He had great speed and instincts. He was also a good receiver out of the backfield. Barber was the closer. He would come in at the end of games, and use an aggressive running style to close out games against languished defenses. The Cowboys had great success with this method, making the playoffs in both seasons and going 13-3 and reaching the #1 seed in 2007.
Will the Cowboys’ version of the M&M boys have the same impact?
That remains to be seen. But the off season puzzle is a little closer to being solved.