Cowboys exec gives strong hint at familiar face to replace Tony Pollard

The Dallas Cowboys desperately need a running back after the departure of Tony Pollard, and their next star rusher may be Texas running back Jonathon Brooks.

NFL Combine - Portraits
NFL Combine - Portraits / Todd Rosenberg/GettyImages

The Dallas Cowboys have had a prolific line of succession at the running back position ever since DeMarco Murray was named the 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Ezekiel Elliott served as the bell-cow from 2016 to 2022. Then, Tony Pollard began to eat into Elliott's carries before eventually seizing the role in 2023. Pollard departed in free agency this offseason, and the Cowboys will look to find their next star running back in the 2024 NFL Draft.

It's no secret that the Cowboys need to find a running back. Yet, as running backs such as Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, D'Andre Swift, Josh Jacobs, and Aaron Jones were scooped off the market, the Cowboys barely made a move. The Cowboys may be "America's Team," but they are still beholden to the salary cap. The Cowboys have just $5.5 million in salary cap space, the fourth-lowest figure in the league. With massive deals looming for star wideouts CeeDee Lamb and linebacker Micah Parsons, Dallas seems content with rebuilding their roster through the 2024 NFL Draft.

Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones may have hinted at the team's preferred running back prospect during the league's annual owner's meetings in Orlando.

Cowboys speak glowingly about Texas RB Jonathon Brooks

Texas running back Jonathon Brooks is expected to be one of the top running back prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft, but he may slide down the draft due to a late-season knee injury. Luckily for Dallas, they'll have few concerns about the Longhorn's health. Brooks had his ACL surgery done by the Cowboys' team physician, Dr. Dan Cooper.

“It always helps when one of the doctors you’re very familiar with does the surgery," Jones said. "That’ll be very helpful. Obviously, he’s a guy we follow right in our backyard in Texas. He’s got a lot of skill sets. If it wasn’t for the injury, might would’ve ultimately been rated the best back in the draft. Any time that a back is coming off an injury, you have to take those things into account.”

Brooks finished the 2023 campaign with 187 carries for 1,139 rushing yards (6.1 yards per carry) and 10 rushing touchdowns. He played in 11 games before missing the end of the season with a torn ACL ligament.

"Our understanding is that he has a great chance to be ready to not miss anything, start training camp and go to work," Jones added. "We’ll see. I don’t want to preempt anything. I haven’t seen the medical reports, but from a periphery basis from afar, going to the combine and things like that, I think he can be a player that can start first day of training camp. Not start, but participate right away.”

Although pump-fakes and misdirections are common this time of year, Jones is speaking as if he already expects Brooks to be at Dallas' training camp.

For now, Rico Dowdle heads a running back roster that includes Deuce Vaughn, Malik Davis and Snoop Conner — all of whom are under the age of 25. Dowdle boasts the most experience among the group, even though he missed the 2021 season with an injury. The 25-year-old running back is returning after his best season to date in which he rushed for 361 yards and two touchdowns on 89 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per carry. He also logged 144 receiving yards and another two touchdowns on 17 receptions. The current expectation is that Dallas will split halfback duties among the young players in their position group. As it stands now, Dowdle would assume the lead role, although he likely won't be an every-down back.

Dallas had a chance to sign star running back Derrick Henry in free agency, but they weren't interested in Henry at all.

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