The Cowboys announced they signed Morris after Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network passed along confirmation from Morris' agent, Sean Stellato. Rapoport added that Morris' contract is worth $3.5 million in base salary, "with a chance to earn up to [$5.5 million]," citing a source.
Morris, 27, spent his first four NFL seasons with Washington. Since being drafted in the sixth round in 2012, Morris rushed for over 1,000 yards in three of those four seasons. The lone exception was 2015, when he set a career low with 751 yards and one touchdown. Morris had scored at least seven rushing touchdowns in his previous three seasons.
Despite his diminished statistics, Morris remained optimistic Washington would bring him back in 2016.
"When I first came into the league, no matter what team I went to, I just wanted to do my whole career with the same team," Morris said, per John Keim of ESPN.com. "That's still my goal. I would love to return, but a lot goes into that. I haven't thought about that. You all keep bringing it up, but we'll see what happens."
On the surface, there was reason to be skeptical. Washington added Florida product Matt Jones in the third round of last year's draft to take the load off Morris, but the two both struggled to make an impact.
Jones finished with 490 yards and three rushing touchdowns, two of which came in his second NFL appearance. Even if Jones isn't the long-term answer, his selection was a clear signal Washington wanted more out of its running back.
Morris has seen a marked decline in his rushing totals over the last three seasons. He set a benchmark during his brilliant rookie campaign, scampering for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. That number was more than cut in half by 2015, despite Morris never missing an NFL game, and he's dipped by no less than 200 yards each year. Morris' average has also dropped by 1.1 yards per carry since 2012.
Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice.com and JJ Zachariason of NumberFire.com provided additional insight into Morris' recent decline:
Alfred Morris YPC:— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) March 22, 2016
Alfred Morris had the worst Success Rate (percentage of positive runs, @numberFire metric) among all 100+ attempt runners last year.— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) March 22, 2016
Morris' year by year Success Rates:— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) March 22, 2016
Not the best trend, but Dallas O certainly helps.
I mean, this is what Dallas did for Darren McFadden:— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) March 22, 2016
Dallas acquiring Morris is difficult to assess. While he provides stability at running back, he grades out as about a league-average starter who doesn't make many big plays and lacks pass-catching skills. The Cowboys aren't going to get above-average production at running back with him there, and they should expect a little regression.
The team will hope he can become part of a productive committee that's also going to include McFadden and either Rod Smith or Lance Dunbar. Morris may be able to earn the more playing time if he can quickly establish himself as the best early-down and red-zone option. Joining one of Washington's divisional rivals should provide a little extra motivation, as well.
Football Outsiders' DVOA metric ranked him 42nd among 44 qualifying running backs in 2015 after putting him no worse than 23rd in his first three years.
Having a guy like Morris at his pre-2015 price was a bargain. Having him on a new deal that's likely much closer to market value is a little less praiseworthy.