Derrick Henry: Cowboys were ‘perfect situation,’ but ‘never reached out’

Derrick Henry found a new home with the Baltimore Ravens earlier this offseason, but he was hoping to hear from another team during his first foray with free agency.

The four-time Pro Bowler admitted on “The Pivot” podcast that the Dallas Cowboys were an ideal landing spot for him, though he was happy to sign with the Ravens, too.

“I knew once free agency started that I wanted to work something out [with the Ravens] if we could,” Henry explained. “Even though I’m living in Dallas and Dallas being a perfect situation, as well, because we lived there, we ain’t got to move. But at the same time, Ravens, the history of it, and then talking to Ray [Lewis] at the Pro Bowl, his passion about the organization, his impact there and how he talked about it. I was like, man, if I’m not in Tennessee or I don’t get to go to Dallas, I’d love to be a Raven.”

The Ravens were linked to Henry before free agency even began — they were the favorite to land the 2020 Offensive Player of the Year prior to his signing a two-year, $20 million deal. In 2023, Henry led the NFL in rushing attempts for the fourth time in five seasons (280) and amassed 1,167 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns. But as the 30-year-old Henry was one of the last marquee running backs to come off the board, there was a brief window where the Cowboys could’ve pounced on him after losing Tony Pollard to, incidentally, the Titans. 

Henry, however, said the Cowboys “[didn’t] holla at me at all.”

“It would’ve been crazy,” Henry said of possibly playing for Dallas. “I thought it’d been some type of reach out, some type of talks or whatever. They never reached out, you know what I’m saying? I don’t really know too much about their organization. All I know is what I hear. I was talking to my agent. They weren’t really interested. It is what it is. Like I said earlier, I’m gonna be where I’m gonna be, and I feel like Baltimore was the perfect spot.”

The Cowboys opted not to make a splash at running back in free agency amid a relatively deep pool of talent available, merely re-signing reserve Rico Dowdle, who had 361 rushing yards last season. Seldom-used backups Deuce Vaughn, Snoop Conner and Malik Davis are the only other backs on the roster. 

Dallas, of course, has hardly upgraded its roster across the board this spring. Former Pro Bowl linebacker Eric Kendricks is the club’s only outside signing to date, despite Jerry Jones’ proclamation that he’s “all-in” for the 2024 season. In addition to Pollard, the Cowboys also let Tyron Smith, Michael Gallup, Tyler Biadasz and other notable veterans walk in free agency. 

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Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters at the NFL’s league meetings last week that he wasn’t too concerned by the team’s free agency approach.

“I understand the question based on the numbers,” McCarthy said when asked if the team was bleeding talent. “But let’s be honest: It’s always a year-to-year approach. The design of your roster, there’s always going to be some variance.

“But I think philosophically, you have to draft and develop. If you look at my history as a head coach, it’s something I’m very comfortable with and have a lot of experience in.”

As for Henry and the Ravens, the running back said he was glad things “worked out” with Baltimore. He shared his excitement to play with two-time MVP Lamar Jackson, wide receiver Zay Flowers, tight end Mark Andrews and fullback Pat Ricard, as he hopes to be the missing piece that gets the Ravens over the hump.

“I’m happy I’m going somewhere that they’re hungry,” Henry said. “They’re hungry for it and they’re right on the cusp. They’re always in the conversation. I know Lamar wants one really bad, so I ain’t going to somewhere where the expectation is like, ‘We’re going to see what’s going to happen. Let’s make the playoffs and make some noise.’ No. They’re trying to win it.”

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