FRISCO, Texas – With so many questions to answer, this series will take a look at each position on the roster, and what choices might face the front office heading into 2021.
Today, we'll conclude this look at the Cowboys' running backs by taking a guess at what the next few years might hold for the position.
What's The Long-Term Outlook?
The first two parts of this series have addressed the present. For better or for worse, the Cowboys' running back spot looks set for the time being.
Ezekiel Elliott is under contract for six more seasons, and the structure of that deal makes it unlikely he'll be going anywhere soon.
Obviously, there are no guarantees that any NFL player finishes an eight-year contract extension. It becomes significantly easier for the Cowboys to part ways with Elliott starting in 2023 and becomes even easier everyone subsequent year after that.
Even still, it's likely that Elliott will be the Cowboys' workhorse for at least two more seasons – and potentially much longer, depending on his production.
At the same time, the depth chart is also accounted for, for the time being. Tony Pollard, drafted in the fourth round in 2019, still has two years remaining on his rookie deal. As undrafted free agents, both Rico Dowdle and Sewo Olonilua are under club control for the foreseeable future, provided the club wants to keep them around.
This is all a winding way of saying it doesn't look like the running back position is going to see significant turnover anytime soon.
We've extensively covered not only Elliott's cost, but his obvious talent and large role in the Cowboys' offense. Behind him, Pollard has proven himself very capable as both a backup and a spot starter, if need be.
Considering that, it's basically impossible to imagine the Cowboys investing free agent money at the position. It would be similarly shocking to see them use a significant draft pick on a ball carrier.
There should always be room for allowances, though.
The front office is expected to wind up with as many as 10 draft picks this spring when all is said and done. The majority of those will come on Day 3 of the draft, between the fourth and seventh rounds.
It wouldn't be surprising to see them churn the bottom of the depth chart by using a late-round pick on a running back. After taking Pollard in the fourth round in 2019, they followed up by drafting Mike Weber in the seventh round. The year before that they drafted Bo Scarbrough in the seventh round, and they also used a sixth-round pick on Darius Jackson in 2016, the same year they drafted Elliott.
There's also the possibility of adding talent in undrafted free agency – that's how Dowdle and Olonilua got here, after all.
But even if that happens, it will be done to create competition for the young guys on the bottom of the depth chart. The smart money says Elliott and Pollard will be doing the heavy lifting once again in 2021.
Predicting the future more than six months in advance is always a mistake in the NFL, but the next year or two should have an interesting impact on this conversation.
Pollard will be entering a contract season a year from now. And, for all the optimism about Elliott's ability to bounce back, the conversation around him will shift drastically if he struggles again in 2021.
It shouldn't be a surprise to see the duo thrive behind a healthier offensive line this coming season. But it also won't be shocking if we're back here next March, speculating about an uncertain future.
For the time being, though, this feels like one of the few positions on the Cowboys' roster that is set for the coming season.