The Dallas Cowboys think they have their running-game solutions in-house -- either because Joseph Randle will win the job, or because RBBC will work effectively enough to allow for success in a post-DeMarco era. And if all that fails? Maybe there is an answer via a late-August trade for an accomplished back with size and tread left on his tires. So why does Chris Johnson and Ray Rice -- who lack size and clean resumes and tread on their tires -- continue to get connected to Dallas via rumors?
Oh, and what does Ryan Williams have to do with any of this?
Back in May, Johnson, the former 2,000-yard rusher announced publicly that the Cowboys should "come holler." That's what got the rumor mill cranking then. CowboysHQ.com, with sources about as highly-placed inside Valley Ranch as possible, reported there was simply no connection, and no interest. Johnson is about to turn 30 (two years beyond when Cowboys personnel people believe a heavy-use runner falls off the cliff), he's smallish, he's got some personal issues (the latest of which: He was shot and sustained injuries in a drive-by shooting that killed a friend) and, most of all, he simply hasn't been a productive NFL back in years.
That dazzling 2009 season with the Titans in which Johnson rushed for 2,006 yards is a running-back lifetime ago in the opinion of the Cowboys ... and that opinion was held in May and it's still held as of Sunday, when sources reiterated the Cowboys' view here. Johnson signed a contract with the Jets last year, rushed for just 663 yards, and this offseason was effectively cut by New York. ...
And the Dallas personnel department essentially agrees with the Jets' evaluation here.
The respected Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that "several NFL executives'' are bringing up the Cowboys as a possible destination for Johnson. And while that indeed might be their view from the outside, our feeling is that it is Johnson himself who is the driving force here, along with the continuing misinterpretation of something Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said in May when he politely answered a question about Johnson by saying he is "on a short list of ours.'' This rumor has jumped up again with a report that Johnson's agent has touched base with Dallas. That's probably true, as it is the agent's job to do so ... but compels the Cowboys in no way.
There is an "emergency list'' of players, at every position, that exists in every teams' personnel department. Chris Johnson's name is present on all 32 of those lists. But it's not a "short list'' in Dallas; if it includes Johnson, it's a long list, with Jones simply being polite in describing it. The same goes for Ray Rice, the former Raven runner with substantial baggage and thinning tread on those tires.
None of this, by the way, has a direct impact on Ryan Williams, the fourth-string Cowboys running back who we said on Monday had "an in-doubt future here dependant on his health.'' The Cowboys have chase another backup in his stead in the form of SFA product Gus Johnson, as we now know on Tuesday as the team travels to Oxnard for the start of camp. Williams' shaky Cowboys future is done; a source close to him tells CHQ that he visited with team COO Stephen Jones on Sunday to learn the news. ... which is directly related to Williams' knee-problem history. (Linebacker Cam Lawrence was also released Monday, both recognizable names on "waived/injured'' moves, which suggests they weren't ready to make it through this week's physical tests.). But Williams' departure is not tied to the Johnson or Rice futures in Dallas, which at this moment are more the figments of their agents' imagination than anything else.