TFCookingEzekiel Elliott reunion, Dalvin Cook both options for Dallas Cowboys at RB
TFCookingEzekiel Elliott reunion, Dalvin Cook both options for Dallas Cowboys at RB

Ezekiel Elliott reunion, Dalvin Cook both options for Dallas Cowboys at RB

ORLANDO, Fla. — As the Cowboys build their backfield in 2024, the future may include a familiar face.

Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook are two veteran options who stand to draw strong club consideration as free agency progresses. Elliott spent seven seasons in Dallas from 2016-22. Cook would reunite with Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, his head coach on the Minnesota Vikings from 2017-21.

Team owner Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones told The Dallas Morning News this week at the NFL’s annual meeting they could neither confirm nor deny interest in the running backs. While they declined to comment, anyone contemplating the Cowboys’ direction at the position would be wise to monitor the veteran running backs in conjunction with a rookie pick. Several people familiar with the players’ thinking told TheNews the veterans have interest in potentially signing with Dallas.

It appears all but certain Dallas will select a running back next month during the draft’s second or third day, which together span the second to seventh rounds. That rookie would project for rotational touches as part of a larger backfield committee.


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Rico Dowdle and fullback Hunter Luepke are among the running backs under contract.

Elliott or Cook could factor into that rotation. Elliott has maintained strong relationships within the building. Cook, a repeat team captain under Zimmer, would embrace being back with him.

“I think we definitely want to add to the running back room,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re not done with that room by no means, whether it’s a veteran, whether it is a draft pick. Signing Rico back was important. He’s definitely someone that was part of the one-two rotation last year, so we feel good about him.

“But we’ve got some young guys in here that look to [make a] jump. ….You look at Hunter, Deuce [Vaughn] and even Malik [Davis]. I’m expecting them to take a big jump and compete for playing time.”

Signing both Elliott and Cook seems unlikely, given the importance of youth in the backfield.

That said, the free-agent backs suit what the club is seeking. The Cowboys missed punches in their backfield last season, too often stalling in short-yardage situations. Despite leading the NFL with 29.4 points in average team scoring, they scored a touchdown on 64.1% of goal-to-go opportunities, seventh-worst in the NFL.

Tony Pollard, for all his strengths, was unable to consistently close drives. A two-play sequence in Week 16 becomes a microcosm.

Rather than widening his running path for a score, Pollard chose the more direct path, cutting upfield on a toss left from the Miami Dolphins’ 2-yard line. He was stopped at the 1. Luepke botched the ensuing handoff from quarterback Dak Prescott.

The Cowboys lost possession and eventually the game, 22-20.

Last season, Pollard scored three touchdowns on seven carries within an opponent’s 2-yard line. He failed to break or evade any tackles on those opportunities. Elliott scored eight touchdowns and added a first down on 11 such carries within the 2 in 2022.

Elliott and Cook own loaded resumes.

They’ve each topped 1,000 rushing yards four times in their respective NFL careers. Cook, a four-time Pro Bowler, did it from 2019-22. He is less removed for workhorse-level production than Elliott, a three-time Pro Bowler who most recently topped 1,000 yards in 2021.

They walked a similar path last year.

The veterans parted with the franchise that drafted them and struggled to find past rhythm. Elliott and Cook logged 3.5 and 3.2 yards per carry for the New England Patriots and New York Jets, respectively. The Jets cut Cook late in the season, allowing him the chance to compete in the postseason.

Cook, who turned 29 in August, caught on with the Baltimore Ravens. He logged eight carries in the fourth quarter of the playoff win against Houston for 23 yards, including a 19-yarder on his first rep.

Elliott, 29 in July, totaled 184 carries for 642 yards and three touchdowns in New England. Whether he signs here or not, he’ll count against the Cowboys’ salary cap. His 2023 release came with a post-June 1 designation, resulting in a final $6.04 million cap hit for 2024.

The Cowboys are fully expected to draft a running back next month.

A veteran they know well could help complement the rookie.

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