IRVING, Texas – There are a few reasons why the Dallas Cowboys didn’t select a running back in the recent draft.
They have tremendous faith in their offensive line. They didn’t want to give up picks to guarantee they could select a particular runner, such as, say, T.J. Yeldon, who likely would have been their second-round pick had he been available.
And Darren McFadden.
The Cowboys signed McFadden to a two-year deal after losing DeMarco Murray in free agency to the Philadelphia Eagles. The deal contained just $200,000 in guaranteed money, but could be worth as much as $5.85 million.
In seven seasons with the Oakland Raiders, McFadden ran for more than 1,000 yards just once. He has run for 4,247 yards on 1,038 carries and 25 touchdowns in his career.
The Cowboys, however, offer a much better chance to succeed given their quarterback (Tony Romo), pass-catchers (Dez Bryant, Jason Witten) and, yes, the offensive line, featuring three Pro Bowl selections in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin.
“McFadden made a big difference here,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “His availability – make no bones about it – we didn’t know that McFadden was going to be available when we initially started to think about this year and in our decisions regarding that. … It might have been a little different story had we not had McFadden on our roster in this draft.”
McFadden has not averaged better than 3.4 yards per carry since 2011. He has had difficulties staying healthy, but Jones pointed to the injuries Murray had in his time with the Cowboys before 2014.
“We know a running back can get hurt and we know they have gotten hurt and his name can be Murray, McFadden or whoever,” Jones said.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones said he understands the skepticism about what McFadden can bring, but said the team’s running-game approach will be about the collective, not the individual. The group – McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams – has not shown consistent ability to produce.
It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t stop looking. Stephen Jones made an allusion to the New England Patriots adding LeGarrette Blount late last season as an example.
“Player acquisition never stops,” Stephen Jones said. “There was a really good football team that I think won a Super Bowl with a back that carried them through the playoffs and on in through the Super Bowl that did a pretty good job for him and they didn’t get him until what week? Very end. You don’t necessarily count on that. I’m not saying that. What I would say is that our eyes are wide open and we’re going to continue to look to improve our football team every step of the way. All the way through the offseason, through training camp and into the season.”