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Cowboys to work out Ben Tate

IRVING, Texas – When the draft ended without the Dallas Cowboys selecting a running back many eye brows were raised, considering the free-agent departure of DeMarco Murray.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would keep their “eyes wide open” for running back help in the future.

Ben Tate, who has rushed for 2,363 yards on 540 carries in his four seasons with four teams, will work out for the Cowboys today at Valley Ranch, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

It is an interesting move considering the faith the Cowboys have expressed in Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the Cowboys' running game will be better in 2015 than it was in 2014 when Murray led the NFL with 1,845 yards.

But Stephen Jones has made sure to leave the light on for possible additions at the position, consistently referring to the New England Patriots’ late-season addition of LeGarrette Blount.

“Just because this is our current group of running backs doesn’t mean it will stay that way,” Stephen Jones said after the draft. “We are always looking to improve our football team, we will continue to look to improve it, obviously, here with minicamps and OTAs and rookie minicamps and things of that nature. We’re going to get to see these guys a lot and at the same time we’ll keep our eyes wide open and look if there are opportunities to improve, not just at running back but other positions, and we’ll improve the team.”

Tate was a second-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2010 but missed his rookie season because of a broken ankle. His best year came in 2011 when he ran for 942 yards and four touchdowns on 175 carries.

He signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent in 2014 but did not care for the committee approach and was released in November. The Minnesota Vikings claimed him but released him after three games. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed him in the playoffs after losing Le'Veon Bell to an injury and he had 19 yards on five carries in the wild-card loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

There are two ways to look at this: The player acquisition business never ends, or the Cowboys are not as content with their runners as previously thought.

McFadden was signed early in free agency to a deal that included just $200,000 guaranteed. Coaches and teammates have noticed a more serious approach by Randle this offseason after two off-field incidents in the last nine months. Dunbar was tendered a deal as a restricted free agent worth $1.542 million, and Williams was given a $240,000 signing bonus to stay after spending last season on the practice squad.

Of the bunch, only McFadden has had a 1,000-yard season, but he has not averaged better than 3.4 yards a carry since 2011.

If the Cowboys add Tate, it might not end their running back search but it would crowd the competition.