Among the 20 Cowboys bound to hit free agency, star running back DeMarco Murray is the biggest question mark. Following an All-Pro season that featured more than 2,200 all-purpose yards, 13 touchdowns and the NFL rushing title, Murray’s future in Dallas is foggy. The 2015 Offensive Player of the Year played the entire season en route to setting a franchise rushing record. The former 3rd round pick out of Oklahoma should gain plenty of traction in contract talks with interested teams.
Dallas may be forced to choose between Murray and Bryant this offseason. Bryant’s elite status as a receiver, paired with Murray’s injury history, the Cowboys are likely to lock-up Dez long-term and have expressed their willingness to tag him if a deal isn’t reached during the offseason. The running back position is arguably the most dispensable in today’s league, particularly when running behind the NFL’s best offensive line.
In the event that DeMarco Murray signs elsewhere, there are viable replacement options via the draft and free agency.
Randle would assume the role if Murray were to leave Dallas. We’ve seen flashes of his speed, patience and vision while he averaged 6.7 yards per carry on 51 attempts in the 2014 season. Randle’s issue isn’t his performance on the field, rather his conduct off the field. In October 2014 he was arrested for shoplifting. Then, earlier this month, he was arrested for possession of marijuana. If not for his behavioral issues Randle is the clear-cut favorite to be the starting running back in Dallas.
The former Alabama star and 1st round pick has had a somewhat disappointing career thus far. In four seasons with the Saints, he compiled just over 2,400 rushing yards. Ingram has suited up for all 16 games just once, and he isn’t quite the receiving threat Murray has provided. Ingram, 25, has youth on his side. The 2014 season was a career year for the former Heisman Trophy winner, logging 964 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. He’s a tough runner and a strong pass blocker. His hard-nosed rushing style could be a devastating duo with speedster Lance Dunbar.
The 28 year-old former 1st round pick missed the final 13 games of the 2014 season after tearing his ACL. He showed his potential when healthy in a week 1 victory versus the Patriots, torching them for 134 yards and a touchdown. Moreno is an all-around back that has been hobbled with injuries throughout his career. Durability is his biggest issue, but when healthy he can be great. He rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns during his 2013 season as a Bronco.
A long shot for sure, but still worth mentioning. The 2012 MVP is returning to the NFL after serving a suspension in 2014. He was indicted for reckless or negligent injury to a child after pictures surfaced on the internet of bruises he inflicted on his 4-year old son.
The Texas native has expressed interest in coming home to play for the Cowboys. Unless the Vikings cut him this offseason, a trade would be required for Peterson to play in Dallas. Peterson has been the NFL’s best back since his debut in 2007. He fell just 9 yards shy of surpassing Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing mark during his MVP season. Jerry Jones faced tampering charges this past August after an Outside the Lines report revealed a phone call between the Cowboys owner and Peterson. Jones admitted to being a fan while Peterson informed him of his desire to play for the Cowboys. But there are a lot of moving parts at play for Adrian Peterson to wear a star on his helmet.
Regardless of where he plays next season, it will be interesting to see how the NFL and fans welcome his return.
In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay projects the Cowboys will choose the Wisconsin running back with the 27th overall pick. Gordon is the consensus top back in a draft that is rich in running back prospects. He ran for 2,587 yards and 29 touchdowns in the 2014 season. The Heisman finalist capped off a stellar collegiate career with a 251 yard, 3 touchdown performance in an Outback Bowl victory over Auburn. It will be interesting to see if Dallas is willing to use their first round pick on a back rather than fill one of many bigger needs on defense.
Other names to look out for in this year’s draft include Todd Gurley, Jay Ajayi and Duke Johnson.
An offense that features three first round lineman has evolved into a run-first attack. Replacing Murray and his 1,845 yards will come easier due to the fortified offensive line in Dallas.