Ezekiel Elliott's workload could increase with Lance Dunbar's exit

FRISCO, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are in the market for a third-down back after Lance Dunbar agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Rams, but they might not have to look very far.

The Cowboys viewed Ezekiel Elliott as an every-down back, which is why they were more than comfortable in selecting him with the fourth overall pick last year, even if some do not believe a running back should go that high.

Elliott led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards in 2016, but he also caught 32 passes for 363 yards and had an 83-yard touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dunbar, who made the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2012, served as a good change-of-pace back and contributed on special teams. His issue was maintaining health. He played in a full season just once but made two quicker-than-expected recoveries from major knee injuries in 2013 and 2015.

He caught 16 passes for 122 yards and had nine carries for 31 yards and a touchdown last season. He was off to a fast start in 2015 with 21 catches in the first three games before sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament and patellar tendon while returning a kickoff.

The Cowboys won’t shy away from giving Elliott a big workload in terms of carries and snaps in 2017, but they do not want to run him ragged either.

They have Alfred Morris and Rod Smith on the roster, but Morris does not bring much to the passing game, and Smith played as a fullback last year.

Darren McFadden, who had 1,089 yards rushing in 2015 for the Cowboys, is a free agent and could return and fill Dunbar’s role. He missed the first 13 games last year after breaking his arm in the spring and finished with 24 carries for 87 yards. He also caught three passes.

The Cowboys have had discussions with McFadden’s agent but have not agreed to a deal. Dunbar’s exit could bring about McFadden’s return.