While many may have presumed the Dallas Cowboys signing of Ronnie Hillman to do with Ezekiel Elliott's looming suspension, it may not actually be the case at all.
First of all, writes the Dallas Morning News, Roger Goodell's decision isn't likely to come until late preseason anyways, because we all know who's set to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame on August 3. Goddell would likely not want to risk the distraction caused by suspending Jerry Jones' star player.
Moreover, wrote the News, "the Cowboys didn't sign the running back as insurance for the impending suspension of Ezekiel Elliott. This is about finding a potential replacement for Lance Dunbar and helping the coaching staff manage a heavy training camp workload at the position."
Speculation that Hillman's signing is directly tied to Elliott's status is understandable, but not substantive. This isn't a sign that the Cowboys expect the NFL to hand down a ruling before the week is done. Club officials have no idea when that hits.
That, wrote the News, brings us back to why Hillman is in camp. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is intrigued by the threat of a quick, elusive player out of the backfield as a receiving threat. Dunbar's departure eliminated that dimension from the offense. Hillman will also ease the strain on the backfield.
"Jahad Thomas will be out for awhile with a hamstring injury. Darren McFadden is 29 years old and Alfred Morris is 28. The staff will be cautious not to overwork those two in camp. The Cowboys can't afford for McFadden and Morris to be dinged up entering the season since they will be asked to do the heavy lifting in Elliott's expected absence."
"That leaves Rod Smith at tailback and Keith Smith, who primarily works at fullback, to handle significant snaps in practice and receive the bulk of the load in those early preseason games."