The Dallas Cowboys spent the first day of the new league year by agreeing to contract terms with a pair of offensive players.
Fullback Jamize Olawale agreed to a three-year, $5.4 million deal with $2.8 million guaranteed to remain with the Cowboys, according to a source. Offensive tackle Cameron Fleming agreed to a two-year deal.
A fullback has been a consistent part of the Cowboys’ offense since Jason Garrett became head coach. Olawale helped block for Ezekiel Elliott as the Pro Bowl back rushed for a league-high 1,434 yards and six touchdowns in 2018.
Olawale, who Dallas acquired in a trade with the Oakland Raiders last March, played in all 16 games last season. He did not get any carries, but he caught two passes for 13 yards.
He was also a significant special teams contributor, playing 63 percent of the snaps and leading that unit in tackles with 13.
The Dallas Cowboys have been relatively quiet during the early parts of the 2019 NFL free agency negotiating period. The Cowboys will stick with one of their own, which means their love for fullbacks will continue in 2019.
The team has agreed to terms with fullback Jamize Olawale on a 3-year deal worth $5.4 million in total. The deal will contain $2.8 million in guaranteed money.
Olawale came to the Cowboys in 2018 after the team sent their 2018 fifth-round pick (No. 173 overall) to the Oakland Raiders. In return, Dallas obtained a Oakland’s sixth-round pick (No. 192).
He will lead the way for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott once again this coming season, when the team uses the fullback of course. Olawale, although playing in every game during the 2018 season, he only played a total of 114 offensive snaps.
Olawale had been hyped up as a fullback who can also catch the ball out of the backfield, but in 2018 he only recorded 13 receiving yards on two receptions. He had zero rush attempts in 2018, but the hope for Cowboys fans is that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore can change how he was utilized.
The talk about the Dallas Cowboys’ offense has covered many topics. Will Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott return to the high levels of play they showed in their rookie season? Does the addition of Connor Williams mean the offensive line will once again be among the elite in the league? Can the team find the answers they need at wide receiver? How will the tight end situation shake out? Can Scott Linehan incorporate do-everything wide receiver/running back Tavon Austin successfully into his scheme?
That covers everything – almost. As has become the norm in the NFL, the fullback position is overlooked. The Cowboys are a team that still employs one, and the only FB on the roster according to DallasCowboys.com is Jamize Olawale, acquired in a trade with the Oakland Raiders. Even in Dallas, the fullback has a limited role, primarily as a lead blocker. But with the expected emphasis on making the offense less predictable this season, that may change. Because Olawale is not your normal fullback.
Earlier this month, our Connor Livesey took a detailed look at Olawale’s play with the Raiders, and came away impressed.
While stats scouting is not a reliable way to evaluate a player, combining the video analysis Connor did with his numbers in Oakland paints an intriguing picture. While they did not hand him the ball much, he was surprisingly effective as a runner in 2015 and 2017, averaging 4.6 and 4.8 yards per attempt, respectively. Those are big numbers for a fullback. And he showed real breakaway talent as a receiver in 2016, averaging an impressive 18.9 yards a catch (a number that was admittedly skewed by the 75-yard touchdown reception he had that season). It also should be noted that the sample sizes were pretty small in all cases, as the Raiders did not employ him extensively as a runner or receiver.
When the Cowboys first acquired Olawale, I noted how he could be an unexpected part of the new plan for the offense. Now, with training camp just a few days away, it seems a good time to revisit that. Especially because of something else the team did.
One thing that was not known at the time Dallas completed the trade for Olawale was that they would also execute a trade during the draft to get Tavon Austin from the Los Angeles Rams. Austin has been described as a “web” back, who can line up in the backfield, the slot, or out wide, and who can run jet sweeps as well as a pass route. That sounds rather like what Connor said about Olawale. He, like Austin, can fill multiple roles, and his presence in the lineup does not necessarily tip that he is going to lead block or pass protect. Olawale could be used much the same way – except that instead of being a speedy and elusive 5-8, 179-pounder like Austin, he is a 6-1, 240-pound load that can still move with alacrity. Imagine being a corner tasked with defending the jet sweep, only instead of Austin coming at you, it could be Olawale with a full head of steam and violence in his eyes.
Business decision time, anyone?
It all depends on just how creative and out-of-the box Linehan is willing to get, but in the past he has shown he can do just that, as he did with Reggie Bush as the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. If he is willing to try and maximize Olawale’s talents, there are some fascinating ideas.
These are just ideas off the top of my head, and in no way a prediction of what Linehan will actually try. But Olawale makes them at least possible. And Linehan was willing to occasionally call Keith Smith’s number in the passing game. Olawale is, by all indications, a much more capable receiving threat than Smith. Put him in the pattern a few times a game, give him a couple of handoffs, and he becomes a credible threat. Again, it is all about getting the defense in the wrong position or keyed on the wrong player. Olawale makes that easier.
Although preseason games tend to have vanilla game plans, it will be interesting to see if Linehan tries a few wrinkles with his fullback. If nothing more, it would put those ideas in the heads of opposing defensive coordinators. And since Olawale is the only fullback currently listed on the roster, those experiments could come at any time in a preseason game – which could lead to some big plays and a little more entertainment than we normally see. And it is also something to watch for during training camp. If they are practicing plays that put the ball in Olawale’s hands, we are much more likely to see those in the regular season.
There has been a lot of talk about how Austin is an X-factor type player, but Olawale can be another. A hidden X, if you will. While he is not going to be a major factor in games, he could provide a handful of plays during the season. That would make getting him a good move by the Cowboys.
The Oakland Raiders have traded fullback Jamize Olawale and a sixth-round pick to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a fifth-round pick in April’s NFL draft in Arlington, Texas.
On Tuesday, the Cowboys announced the deal.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network initially reported the news.
Olawale, 28, has spent his entire six-year NFL career with the Raiders, though this does represent something of a reunion. The Cowboys signed Olawale as an undrafted free agent in 2012 before cutting him at the end of training camp, allowing him to land in Oakland off Dallas’ practice squad.
The Cowboys and Raiders essentially swapped their respective fullbacks this offseason. Keith Smith, who has been a fullback for Dallas each of the last two campaigns, signed with Oakland as a free agent.
Olawale is a converted wide receiver who has become a reliable blocking fullback and an occasional ball-carrier.
“I enjoy winning,” Olawale said in November, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports. “Whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m all for it. That’s my goal every week. Sometimes I’m focused on blocking or catching passes or running the ball.”
The Cowboys will be responsible for Olawale’s $1.5 million base salary in 2018. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the campaign.
Dallas will likely choose to use Olawale in the same role as Smith, keeping him almost entirely as a blocker for Ezekiel Elliott. Smith recorded just two carries over the last two seasons.