Cowboys signee Royce Freeman


Cowboys signee Royce Freeman


Getty

Cowboys signee Royce Freeman

Back when the Cowboys were heading into the 2024 NFL draft, with the reigning presumption being that the team was bound to choose a running back to help replace the departed Tony Pollard, they raised some eyebrows with a signing—just their second free-agent foray of the offseason. The Cowboys picked up free-agent Royce Freeman, a former third-round pick of the Broncos who has bounced through four organizations before this season.

Freeman has carved out a steady role as an NFL backup in his career, and has appeared in 79 games in six years. He certainly gets reps—he recorded 77 carries for 319 yards and two touchdowns last year with the Rams—but has only started nine times in his career.

With a respectable average of 4.1 yards per attempt last season, Freeman does figure to have a role with this team. He posted a Pro Football Focus grade of 74.4 last season, easily the best on the current crop of Cowboys halfbacks, but he did so in only 209 snaps on the field.

Yet, in gaming out the Cowboys 2024 53-man roster, the folks at USA Today’s Cowboys Wire put forth an eye-opening prediction: They do not foresee Royce Freeman on the final roster.


Cowboys Committee Remains Questionable

In breaking down the way the Cowboys running-backs room shapes up, writer KD Drummond has Rico Dowdle taking over as the No. 1 running back, rather than the returning Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott, who has lists as the No. 2 back. That should be a competition throughout training camp, and perhaps will remain so in the season.

Deuce Vaughn is tabbed as a “pretty secure” option in the backfield, a speedy and undersize (he is just 5-foot-8) third-down back. Malik Davis and Nathaniel Peat, two undrafted free agents, are listed as practice squadders. And Freeman’s 53-man roster spot?

Nowhere to be found.

Of course, the Cowboys won’t go into the season with six running backs on hand, and they do have fullback Hunter Luepke on the roster. But the team has been promising that there will be a running-back-by-committee approach this year, and a committee that has Elliott and Dowdle and little else does not sound particularly imposing.

While it is true that the Cowboys could use the roster spot for other groups—the receiver room is thin, too—the fact is that a real RB committee probably requires three active backs, plus Vaughn.


Royce Freeman Eager to Compete for RB Spot

Not only might the Cowboys keep more than three running backs on the active roster, though, they also could still add another running back to the mix. The team has four open roster spots on the 90-man training camp roster, and it’s possible they will create more competition with another veteran back.

Freeman said he understands that he has not been guaranteed a spot, and that there will be plenty of competition for the running-back roles.

“There’s so much versatility, in abilities and in age,” Freeman told SI.com last week. “Everybody can really do everything. Everybody’s building and trying to help each other out. It’s great to have that competitive nature and boost each other up as the days get long.”

He also says he appreciates the approach from Elliott, who has been supportive all around.

“I think he’s a great teammate,” Freeman said. “Honestly, I think he cares. He wants to see everybody do well. He wants to bring that camaraderie. He’s seen a lot in the league and just wants to relay that to other people.”

Sean Deveney is a veteran sports reporter covering the NBA, NFL and MLB for Heavy.com. He has written for Heavy since 2019 and has more than two decades of experience covering the NBA, including 17 years as the lead NBA reporter for the Sporting News. Deveney is the author of 7 nonfiction books, including “Fun City,” “Before Wrigley became Wrigley,” and “Facing Michael Jordan.” More about Sean Deveney



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