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Free Agent Overview: Explosive Back When Healthy, Dunbar Still Unproven

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, staff writers will break down each free agent, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities of a return in 2017.

Today, we'll start the series with running back Lance Dunbar.

What's The Deal: The Cowboys have had some major success with undrafted free agents over the years, more than just the likes of Tony Romo, Miles Austin and most recently, Dan Bailey. Lance Dunbar has been a role player for five years now, coming off a 2017 season in which he was healthy for most of the year despite missing all of training camp with a knee injury from the 2016 season. Health concerns have been an issue for Dunbar, although he was able to play all 16 games. His production was certainly limited by the presence of Ezekiel Elliott, who racked up 356 total touches in his rookie year. In comparison, Dunbar has just 188 career touches, including playoffs, for his entire five-year career. His market value will be tricky because he's been in the league long enough to establish a reputation from other teams, but hasn't produced a ton of results.

His Best Moment: Two of his best games occurred in a three-week span early in the 2015 season. He had a career-high 10 catches in a Week 3 loss to the Falcons, totaling 100 receiving yards. Two weeks earlier, he had eight receptions for 70 yards in helping the Cowboys rally to beat the Giants in the season opener.

[embeddedad0]Argument to Keep: When it comes to the current roster, there aren't many players with Dunbar's skill set. He's got the ability to catch out of the backfield and he can be serviceable running between the tackles on a limited basis. He's also got special teams experience, including in the return game. If he can get the ball in space, he's proven to be dangerous.

Argument to Let Go: After five years, he's just never really materialized as a consistent weapon who can stay healthy. He'll probably warrant a deal in the range of $1.5-2 million per season. But considering his lack of production, it seems like his role could be replaced by a younger player, even a rookie, for at least half the cost, if not more.

Bryan Broaddus' Scout's Take: Favorite of the front office. Has never been healthy enough to realize his full potential. When he was able to suit up, initial quickness / acceleration / burst has always been a part of his game. Shows body control and balance with a creative side. Lateral agility and vision is a strength. Was put in the role of nickel running back. Opponents forced him into having to stay in and pass block instead of being used as a runner and pass catcher. Gave all he had as a blocker but there were snaps where it was just too much for him to have to be consistent doing it. Once Darren McFadden returned from his elbow injury, Dunbar was used more on the outside as a space player and occasionally with Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield in special scheme packages. Coaches searched for ways to get him the ball but with too many other options – his effectiveness was limited.

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