With the NFL offseason now officially underway, it’s never too early to start focusing on the next order of business, which is free agency. The Cowboys have 20 unrestricted free agents who can sign with other teams starting on March 9, unless they strike a new deal with the Cowboys before then.
Over the next two weeks, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will break down each free agent, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities of a return in 2017.
Today, we’ll look at running back Darren McFadden.
What’s The Deal: When the Cowboys signed McFadden two years ago, there was a sense of excitement that he could perhaps take over the starting running back position after DeMarco Murray left in free agency. While he got off to a slow start as he sat behind then-starter Joseph Randle, McFadden finished 2015 in a strong way, rushing for 1,089 yards, which ranked fourth in the NFL. Still, the Cowboys knew there was a need for an upgrade and jumped at the chance to draft Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 pick last April. It didn’t help McFadden that he suffered an elbow injury just before camp and eventually missed three-fourths of the season. Now, as a free agent, McFadden must convince a team, possibly the Cowboys again, that he still has plenty of gas in the tank to warrant a new contract. His versatility should allow him to land a spot, but certainly not as the featured back.
His Best Moment: It certainly wouldn’t have come from this past year when he only played limited snaps at the end of the year. McFadden’s best moment as a Cowboy occurred in a loss to the Giants in 2015. He rushed for 152 yards in the sixth game of the year after totaling just 129 yards in the previous five games.
Argument to Keep: Two years ago, he came to the Cowboys relatively cheap and it’s unlikely he would demand high dollars now as he nears the age of 30. But he’s a versatile back that can carry the load as a starter if needed. He blocks, catches the ball out of the backfield and can play special teams.
Argument to Let Go: Before the regular season begins, McFadden will turn 30. Considering he’s not expected to start and the Cowboys will probably get some younger, cheaper options to back up Elliott, it seems like they could replace McFadden rather easily, especially with someone who doesn’t have the injury history.
Bryan Broaddus’ Scout’s Take: Tremendous work ethic and passion for the game. Initial quickness and playing speed is good. Shows the speed to get the corner but not a home run hitter. Ability to make the first man miss but not the most creative runner. Doesn’t run with much strength or power. Smart player with the ball in his hands. Plays with vision and awareness. Knows his assignments and is able to execute them well. Don’t have to worry about him going the wrong way or making a mistake. Can pick up blitzes all day. Tough guy in this area. Consistent in this area. Can catch the ball in the flat and underneath. Dependable, soft hands. Has a feel for how to find open space. Better runner on the edge than inside. Will keep his pad level down when running but not the ideal back to hand it to in short yardage situations. There are snaps where he struggles to get that key yard. Would consider bringing him back on the right deal. Next to Ezekiel Elliott he is the most complete back on the roster when it comes to run, catch and block. He’s protection.
Cowboys 2017 Free Agents
Free Agency Overview Read
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- Gachkar Played Special Teams, Versatile LB Role Again
- Despite Low Numbers, Escobar Has Appealing Traits
- Claiborne Flashed Potential, But Injuries Struck Again
- Evaluating The Late Addition Of OG Jonathan Cooper