Contract: Two years, $3 million. He received a $200,000 signing bonus as the only guaranteed portion of the contract. His base salary in 2015 is $900,000. He can earn up to $150,000 in per-game roster bonuses and $1.8 million in incentives in 2015.
What I saw: I picked the Patriots’ game because that was the most carries he had last season. I chose the Chargers game because that was the most yards he had in a game. His career high in yards came against the Jets in 2011, so I wanted to see what he could possibly be.
We know his yard-per-carry average is poor, but he received little help from his offensive line. In the three games I viewed, he had only four carries for negative yards or no yards. Of course, he had only 16 carries of more than 5 yards. He had a lot of “dirty” runs but he could have had some more clean runs with better vision.
There were several carries against the Patriots where you had to question his vision, but you always have to keep the line play in mind. He didn’t look like he had great trust in what was happening up front. He was at his best on the toss plays that allowed him to use his speed. He attacked the line of scrimmage. He had a touchdown called back because of an awful holding penalty, slithering the hole to get to the second level.
Against the Chargers, his best runs came against eight-man boxes, including a 12-yard gain on a toss, which was also one of the few plays in which he broke a tackle. There are some contact balance questions here.
Against the Jets he had a 70-yard touchdown in which his line blocked the wide run perfectly. He gained the corner and his speed got him past the safety, who took a poor angle. It was the best sign of his speed because once he got to the edge he was gone. He had a 27-yard run in which he was supposed to throw it back to quarterback Jason Campbell, but the play was covered. He changed direction and got to the open field.
In the passing game, he was a willing blocker, but he whiffed twice against Patriots linebackers on the blitz. He liked to cut block as a pass-protector and it never really got him in trouble. The Raiders lined him up wide as a receiver plenty of times with him mostly running clear out routes or go routes. He had little chances on screens in these three games because of poor timing because of the blocking up front.
How he fits: He is a one-cut runner and in the zone scheme you want a guy who can hit it and go. Now he’s not done that in quite some time, but the Cowboys hope a change of scenery with more talent around him gets him back to the form he showed at Arkansas. Or at least the form he showed in 2010 when he ran for 1,157 yards. He has not had more than 223 carries in a season so he will not replace DeMarco Murray’s carries by himself. He can be a part of a committee.
Good move: At the price, it’s hard to argue. And even if McFadden can do something that has never been done in team history with back-to-back 1,400-yard seasons, the Cowboys will gladly pay him $5.5 million the next two seasons. He offers some insurance at this point with the chance to get a back in the draft or elsewhere. His speed remains and being around a much better offensive line should help his confidence.