Cowboys Free Agency: Is Raiders' Jacobs Ideal Pollard Replacement? - Sport News

Cowboys Free Agency: Is Raiders’ Jacobs Ideal Pollard Replacement?

The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2023 season hoping running back Tony Pollard could take the mantle as the lead back and run with it, cementing his future as the bell cow for America’s Team.

Cowboys Free Agency: Is Raiders' Jacobs Ideal Pollard Replacement?

Despite an acceptable statistical profile – 1,005 yards and six scores – it was a clear step back from the performance that pushed his predecessor, Ezekiel Elliott, out of town.

Rushing for two fewer yards and three fewer touchdowns on 49 more rushes, his inefficiency opened the door for Dallas to test the free-agent waters in search of a new running back.

According to ESPN’s best free agent fits, Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs should be next in line to join the Cowboys’ esteemed list of star running backs.

“He has been a volume grinder for the Raiders, with the low pad level to finish runs and the quickness to make defenders miss,” Matt Bowen wrote. “Jacobs, who led the NFL in rushing in 2022, could also be utilized as a receiving option for Dak Prescott on swings, screens and unders.”

After his 1,653-yard performance in 2022, Jacobs fell back to earth, slashing his yards per carry from 4.9 to 3.5 and rushing for 805 yards in 2023. Part of that is certainly due to Las Vegas’ offensive line, mitigating concerns for a potential transition to Dallas.

Performance up front is paramount for any back’s success, but Jacobs’ skill set could separate him from Pollard. They posted similar receiving marks this past season – Jacobs catching 37 passes for 296, Pollard catching 55 for 311 yards – but Jacobs offers more in short-yardage situations than the smaller Pollard.

Jacobs is powerful, much like other names that the Cowboys could turn to in Green Bay Packers back AJ Dillon and Tennessee Titans star Derrick Henry. The ability to offer more in the red zone and when yards get tough is something Pollard frequently lacked.

Furthermore, Jacobs, per Pro Football Focus’ projections, is only slated to make $3.5 million more than Pollard ($11.5 million compared to $8 million) for the next three years.

Jacobs can bring more to the passing game than Henry or Dillon and has flashes as a pass protector, too, though that skill waned in 2023. There are fair concerns about tread on Jacobs’ tires, but such is the risk with signing a free-agent running back. Jacobs is heading into his age-26 season but has 1,305 professional rushes to his name. Pollard, nearly a year older, has approximately half as many attempts.

These moves are never without risk, but if the Dallas front office feels comfortable paying a veteran back to lead the backfield, Jacobs may have the best balance of track record and potential on the open market. …

Having said that: CowboysSI.com broke the story years ago of why Dallas wasn’t going to pay NFL rushing champ DeMarco Murray as a result of an in-house study that determined that heavy-lifter star backs fall off a performance cliff at age 28.

They proceeded to violate their own policy with Ezekiel Elliott’s monster deal. They took it right to the edge with Pollard’s. And now a long-term, $34.5 million commitment to a “volume grinder” represents an “ideal” circumstance in which to again violate the rule?

As Dallas undeniably plots for running back help, here’s betting that the Cowboys front office sees this idea as something shy of “ideal.”

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