Cowboys uninspiring Derrick Henry backup plan comes to fruition

The Dallas Cowboys have addressed their roster needs at the running back position with a player fans may already recognize.

Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills
Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills / Timothy T Ludwig/GettyImages
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The Dallas Cowboys are currently undergoing reconstruction. Like most teams, the Cowboys will look vastly different by the time the 2024 NFL season kicks off.

On Monday, Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and left tackle Tyron Smith said their emotional goodbyes to Dallas. Although injuries derailed his once-promising career, Vander Esch was a leader in the locker room. Smith, who signed with the New York Jets, was a fixture in Dallas for 13 years.

A departure like that will inevitably affect team chemistry, as Vander Esch played an integral role on the Dallas defense. Still, there's another position group in dire need of reinforcement: the running back.

Dallas Cowboys re-sign RB Rico Dowdle after passing on Derrick Henry, other options

Despite all the offseason tumult, it seems the Cowboys have been able to retain one familiar face in Dallas. On the same day Vander Esch retired, the Cowboys re-signed running back Rico Dowdle to a one-year deal.

Dallas has had quite the line of succession at the running back position since DeMarco Murray's stint in Dallas culminated with NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2014. From 2016 to 2022, Ezekiel Elliott served as the bell-cow, then split carries and eventually relinquished the role to running back Tony Pollard. When Dowdle followed Pollard into free agency this offseason, it seemed Dallas may have lost its top two running backs. Dallas brought back the 25-year-old halfback, giving the team a measure of depth at the position ahead of the NFL Draft.

For now, 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. Dowdle 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. Dowdle 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.

The signing provides important depth, but the Cowboys need to address the position during the 2024 NFL Draft. Dallas had a chance to sign star running back Derrick Henry in free agency, but they weren't interested in Henry at all.

Understandably, Cowboys fans are frustrated by Dallas' inactivity at the start of free agency. Team owner Jerry Jones claimed the Cowboys would be going "all in" after their 2023 campaign ended with another postseason debacle. Yet, as running backs such as Henry, Saquon Barkley, D'Andre Swift, Josh Jacobs, and Aaron Jones were scooped off the market, the Cowboys barely made a move.

Cowboys prove Skip Bayless right with latest Derrick Henry report. Cowboys prove Skip Bayless right with latest Derrick Henry report. dark. Next