Running back Darren McFadden didn’t have much to do in 2016, but the Dallas Cowboys valued the 29-year old’s role as Ezekiel Elliott’s backup, re-signing the back to a one-year deal, according to Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com.
It’s been a strange NFL career for McFadden, who’s been in the league for nine seasons but hasn’t quite lived up to his hype. The Oakland Raiders drafted him with the No. 4 overall pick in 2008, following a celebrated college career that included a Heisman Trophy runner-up campaign in 2007. However, McFadden had multiple problems staying healthy, and never played a full 16-game season until 2014.
By 2014, McFadden had fallen out of favor in Oakland and got supplanted by Latavius Murray. He went to the Dallas Cowboys, starting the 2015 season as part of a committee with Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar. When Randle got released and Dunbar suffered a season-ending injury, McFadden took over as the starting back and enjoyed success behind Dallas’ elite offensive line, recording just the second 1,000-yard season of his career.
But in 2016, the Cowboys made a changing of the guard at running back, drafting Elliott fourth overall. McFadden never got a chance to keep his starting job — an accident at home led to a severe elbow injury, so McFadden started the season on the non-football injury list. Elliott took the starting job and never looked back, and McFadden fell to a distant third on the depth chart behind the rookie and Alfred Morris. He appeared in just three games all year.
McFadden is getting up there in years, and will always have a troubling injury history, but he proved in 2015 that he can still be a productive runner when healthy. He’ll likely see action only as a spell back for the Cowboys in 2017, but that may be his best value at this point in his career.