There was some consternation, both among fans and media, that the Cowboys lost an integral part of their offense when running back DeMarco Murray signed with the Eagles. But the price -- a five-year, $42 million deal ($21 million guaranteed) -- was prohibitive and the Cowboys were right to look for running back help elsewhere.
A lot can happen between the start of training camp and the regular season, and the Cowboys will no doubt be on the lookout for backs that can help them. And that list could include Chris Johnson, the former Titans first-round pick who struggled with the Jets last season and remains unsigned.
If the Johnson-Cowboys rumors sound familiar, they should; CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote earlier this month that several NFL executives brought up Dallas as a possible landing spot for Johnson. And Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said in May that Johnson was on the team's short list, according to the story. It could be significant news for those targeting, or looking to keep, Joseph Randle.
Ivory has shown he deserves to be the lead back. He has been very good over the past two seasons while always splitting carries.
During the spring, the Jets used Ivory in spread formations a bunch, lining him up as a wide receiver. Spring is sometimes just experimental, but maybe Chan Gailey thinks he can make Ivory a bigger part of the passing game. If Ivory can become a complete back, he has the potential to be one of the best in football.
The story talked about how the former coaching staff often seemed to shy away from Ivory, just as he was about to get going. The author pointed out that the Jets former coaches were afraid of Ivory getting injured and often turned to Chris Johnson, which as we all know now wasn't a good move. Ivory is ranked 27th on our RB list and if he happens to be more involved in the offense, could turn out to be a steal with an ADP of the eighth round. However, at least Ridley and Stacy have proven to be reliable backs at times, and it's hard to imagine them not cutting into Ivory's workload.
Cowboys RB coach Gary Brown broke down the team's backfield:
“I just admired him from afar, watching him on tape. I think he’s big, strong, incredibly fast, tough guy. He’s buying into our system. He wants to be here. He’s doing everything I ask him to do. I’m looking forward to seeing him in pads. … I’ve been out here watching him run. He looks very fast. We’re just looking forward to seeing him in pads in our system.”
“I think Joe really has to make sure he takes care of everything on and off the field. We want to trust Joe, we like Joe, but we want to make sure he’s going to be with us at all times. I think he’s maturing up and he’s getting better and he understands the opportunity he has in front of him and I think he’ll take full advantage. I think those days are behind him and we’re looking forward to working with Joe. … Just being around him these last few weeks, he seems to be more mature to me. He and I have sat down and had one-on-one conversations about his future and I think he wants to go in the right direction.”
“I envision [him getting more opportunities]. I think he’s a hell of a football player, we’ve got to try and get him more involved and I think coach Linehan is going to do a great job doing that. … [He didn’t get more carries last season] because I think the run game was so explosive and DeMarco was running so well. It’s just like anything in life, you’ve got a guy who is hot, you want to ride that guy and make sure he gets his touches and I think we did the right thing by getting him his touches. Obviously with, what was it, 1,800 yards and 13, 14 touchdowns, whatever it was, I think we made the right decision.”
Brown later said he might have been premature not also mentioning Ryan Williams with that group.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old McFadden hasn't cracked 3.5 YPC since the 2011 season, when he ran for 614 yards on 113 carries (5.4 YPC) in seven games. That's the rub with McFadden -- fantasy owners haven't been able to count on his durability. He has missed roughly a quarter of his team's games since entering the league. Randle averaged 6.7 YPC behind the Dallas offensive line last season, but has had a host of off-the-field issues. Dunbar is more of a third down back, while Williams is a former second round pick who has been unable to stay healthy. The team has insinuated that it still may trade for a running back or sign a free agent (like Chris Johnson or perhaps Ray Rice), so the backfield is far from settled. McFadden is currently the first Dallas running back off the board in the 7th round.
Dallas Cowboys site writer David Helman on how the team will use OTAs to evaluate the RB corps:
"Ever since the draft ended, we’ve heard the Cowboys say that they aren’t ruling out the possibility of adding another running back before the season. If I had to take an educated guess, I’d say they’re going to use OTAs and minicamp to take a hard look at the guys on the roster. Those practices should give them a better idea of how well they can handle it. If they aren’t confident in those four by the end of OTAs, I bet they’ll go add another guy this summer."
Regarding the Jets running game, expect Chris Ivory and Stevan Ridley to share the bulk of the load. One of those two might get 20 to 30 carries more than the other guy, but it won't be a huge gap, provided both backs stay healthy all season.
With Chris Johnson out of the way, it looked like Ivory might be one of the more attractive middle round sleepers at his position, but the team’s decision to sign Stevan Ridley has thrown his status up in the air. He’s a career 4.7 YPC runner, and has averaged 4.4 YPC in two seasons with the Jets. It would have made more sense if the Jets had paired Ivory with a speed back/receiving threat like C.J. Spiller, but the arrival of Ridley is a concern. If the two players do indeed split carries, neither will carry much reliable fantasy value.
The team will not exercise its option on running back Chris Johnson and he can become an unrestricted free agent on March 10.
Johnson's release is not a surprise, though there are now approximately 179 touches up for grabs in New York. The team has been linked to free agent C.J. Spiller, who had his best season (250 touches, 1703 total yards, eight touchdowns) under new Jets OC Chan Gailey back in 2012. If the Jets sign Spiller, he would form a one-two punch with Chris Ivory, who rushed for 821 yards (on 4.1 YPC) last season.
Jets beat writer Rich Cimini identifies two potential cap cuts:
Percy Harvin, wide receiver ($10.5 million cap charge): Former general manager John Idzik executed a desperation trade last October that made sense on the risk-reward scale, but the landscape has changed. Not only is $10.5 million too much money for a player of Harvin's ilk, but there's also draft-pick compensation to consider. The Jets owe the Seattle Seahawks a conditional sixth-round pick that improves to a fourth-rounder if they keep him on the roster until March 19. The X factor is offensive coordinator Chan Gailey; his spread offense would be a nice fit for Harvin (if that's the system they choose to run). The March 19 deadline allows the Jets to explore free agency before making a decision on Harvin, who hasn't been an impact player since 2011.
Chris Johnson, running back ($5.25 million): The Jets have until Feb. 16 to decide whether to pay a $500,000 option bonus, part of the two-year, $8 million contract Johnson signed last April. The amount of the bonus isn't prohibitive, but the cap charge is steep for a player who would be no more than a part-time back again. Johnson was a worthwhile signing a year ago, but he'll be 30 in September and isn't close to being the player he once was. The Jets can save $3.5 million by parting ways with Johnson. That probably will be the outcome.
Johnson averaged 4.3 YPC in his first season with the Jets. He and Harvin were two high-profile acquisitions last season, but there's a new regime in town, so expect plenty of change.
Friday, December 26, 2014, 6:53pm
Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 17.
Friday, December 19, 2014, 6:02pm
Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 16. Johnson should be available to frustrate his owners again in Week 16.
Thursday, December 18, 2014, 6:14pm
Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee) took full practice reps again Thursday. Johnson should be available to frustrate his owners again in Week 16.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014, 5:57pm
Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee) practiced fully Wednesday. Johnson should be fine to frustrate his owners again in Week 16.
Friday, December 12, 2014, 6:26pm
Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 15. We like Johnson given the revenge narrative in this week’s game against his old team. Beat writer Rich Cimini wrote “Johnson will be highly motivated for this game. He's been talking about it since he signed nine months ago.” It doesn’t hurt that he has averaged 15.0 touches in his last three games, and the matchup is great — Tennessee is #28 in RB aFPA.
Thursday, December 11, 2014, 6:32pm
Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee) took full practice reps again Thursday. We like Johnson given the revenge narrative in this week’s game against his old team. It doesn’t hurt that he has averaged 15.0 touches in his last three games.
Chris Johnson did his best to avoid showing how personal Sunday’s game is for him.
The Jets running back clearly does not want to feed into the story line of facing the Titans, the team that dumped him in April after six seasons. But Johnson could not hide it totally. After deflecting a few questions about his personal feelings, Johnson spoke the truth.
“Of course, I want to go in there and tear it up and show them what they missed out on and make them regret that,” Johnson said. “I’m not going into the game and try to make it me versus them.”
We generally believe in the revenge narrative when it comes to players facing their own teams. Johnson has averaged 15.0 touches in his last three games and given that type of workload, he should have a nice game against a suspect Tennessee defense. He is our #24 RB this week.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 6:25pm
Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee) practiced fully Wednesday. We like Johnson given the revenge narrative in this week’s game against his old team. It doesn’t hurt that he has averaged 15.0 touches in his last three games.