Morris Signs with Cowboys
On Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys announced they would be adding another physical, downhill runner to their backfield. The team signed former Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris to pair with Darren McFadden in 2016.
Morris agreed to a two-year, $3.5 million deal worth up to $5.5 million in incentives, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
The former undrafted free agent in 2012 appeared in all 64 games in his four-year career with Washington, as he earned 4,713 yards and 29 touchdowns on 1,078 carries. Morris has rushed for over 1,000 yards and averaged over four yards per carry in three of his four years in the NFL.[the_ad id=”58837″]In 2015, Morris’ stat line fell victim to having a committee in the backfield for the first time in his career, as rookie Matt Jones quickly earned a significant role in Washington’s offense after being selected in the third-round in the 2015 NFL draft. Jones carried the ball 144 times for 490 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games; Morris had a career-low 202 carries for 751 yards and one touchdown in 16 games.
Morris, a powerful, bully-type running back, prides himself in his ability to plow his way in between the tackles and put defenders on their back when lowering his shoulder, but his style of running is known to have a short life-span in comparison to some of the more elusive, agile backs in the league. Given his recent drop in production, there are concerns that Morris, 27, is incapable of putting up quality numbers, but a change of scenery could be exactly what Morris needs to rekindle the fire that sparked his dominance early in his career.
With Dallas, Morris is still projected to split carries with McFadden, but given McFadden’s injury history and his lack of experience playing at a high level, he could earn a premier role sooner that Cowboys GM Jerry Jones thinks.
“Morris will be more limited in his carries than McFadden,” Jones said, via Todd Archer of ESPN.com. “But I do see substantive workload there for him, but not as much as McFadden.”
Jones can say all he wants about his former Arkansas back now in March, but once Morris starts outperforming McFadden in his limited role early in the season, look for Jones to demote McFadden down to the No. 2 spot.
If Morris does earn an increased workload, he could potentially put up numbers very similar to his rookie season, as the offensive line in Dallas is something Morris hasn’t necessarily had an opportunity to play behind in Washington. Given the Cowboys’ ability to prevent early penetration, Morris won’t have to slow down in the backfield to avoid defenders, and as a result, he will more effectively hit the hole at his top speed.
With the believed notion that Jones will keep Morris in a reduced role, he could fall down fantasy draft boards, and in turn, emerge as a sleeper running back target for owners looking to add a high-upside bench player late in the draft. Though McFadden is capable of keeping a firm grip on the starting job, he is still an injury prone player whether or not he is performing at a high level.
Yes, banking on the idea that Morris can produce as a No. 2 running back or in a flex role is still a high-risk decision, but his floor isn’t nearly as low as some of the other backup running backs in the NFL. If you’re capable of bringing in two or three backs ahead of him, you should feel comfortable adding Morris as your third or fourth running back in the later rounds of the draft.
Austin Gayle is currently pursuing both his Liberal Studies and Journalism degree at San Diego State University. He began his writing career as the lead editor/writer for the website he created thedraftpulse.com. He is an Oakland, California native who has a strong passion for football at both the collegiate and professional level. He has been studying the NFL draft for over four years now and has started publishing his analysis of college level prospects since the year 2014.
He is now a featured writer for theunitedgrind.com, an NFL draft columnist for football.com, a featured writer for justblogbaby.com, and a featured columnist for Gridiron Experts. He is also a member of the Football Writers of America Association.
Due to his Bay Area roots, Austin is an avid fan of the Oakland Raiders.