With the 2014 NFL season coming to an end, the Dallas Cowboys have two major issues which risk the continuity of their offense: both wide receiver Dez Bryant and running back DeMarco Murray are going to be hitting the free agency market this coming offseason. Will Dallas be able to retain one or possibly both of these play-makers and remain a top 10 NFL offense?
Bryant and Murray are truly the heart and soul of the Cowboys’ offense. Bryant has had over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns each of the last three seasons, for a total of 5,424 yards and 56 touchdowns in his first five professional seasons. That was good enough to end the season as the 4th-ranked fantasy football wide receiver in 2014.
Murray on the other hand led the NFL in rushing this season by about 500 yards finishing with 1,845 and 13 touchdowns. After being projected as a late 1st-round draft selection in 2014 fantasy football drafts, Murray finished as the top running back in fantasy football, barely edging-out Le'Veon Bell.
Murray Becomes Offensive Focal Point
Murray is also credited with the Cowboys drastic improvement in 2015, a season in which Dallas absolutely ran Murray down other teams’ throats. Murray had 392 rushing attempts in 2014, more attempts than he’s had in the last two seasons combined.
This strategy worked wonders for the Cowboys, as they went 12-4 including an 8-0 road record. Murray routinely found himself running through huge, gaping holes in defenses, so a fair amount of credit should also be given to the Cowboys' offensive line.
Was the key to Dallas' success in keeping the ball out of Tony Romo’s hands? Whether that was the actual strategy or not, it worked like a charm for much of the 2014 season.
Salary Cap Woes & the Adrian Peterson Factor
Here’s where Dallas could run into problems in 2015: Romo is already playing on a huge contract. But both Murray and Bryant are going to want similarly massive deals in order to remain with the team. Sure, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones could stretch his wallet a bit to keep both of his superstars, but should he do this to the detriment of the rest of the team?
Peterson Grew up in Texas
It’s no secret that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wants to play for his home state team in Dallas. In fact, Jones and Peterson have reportedly been texting back and forth discussing the possibility of a deal that would send Peterson to the Cowboys. Because of the way Peterson was ushered out of Minnesota last season, you have to think his relationships there have soured.
This deal seemed far-fetched, after all the Vikings have built their team completely around the 2012 NFL MVP. However, after missing the 2014 NFL season due to child abuse allegations, a deal involving Peterson could be actually make sense. Jerry Jones loves attention so the publicity that would come with picking up a controversial player like Peterson would likely be welcomed. It's almost a perfect fit.
No Room for Two Superstar RBs in Dallas
As amazing and unstoppable as a one-two punch backfield of Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray might be, it just doesn't make financial sense for the Cowboys. Peterson and Murray are arguably the two best running backs in the NFL right now, both being used in a non-RBBC, true #1 running back for their respective teams. But with great talent comes great ego.
Even after missing a season, Peterson is still on pace to be the best running back of all time. Splitting carries with another running back could certainly prevent Peterson from reaching that goal. As for Murray, he is already a proven commodity in Dallas, so he would only see Peterson as a threat to his playing time.
Murray Likely to Remain a Cowboy
Murray has basically dared the Cowboys not to resign him, but they would be better off keeping him. And with Murray's spot in the backfield guaranteed, Dallas will need to forgo the dream of putting Peterson into the blue and silver. As things are right now, Murray is the present and future of this franchise. Letting Murray walk and hoping to land Peterson would be a massive mistake for two primary reasons:
- The Cowboys have no guarantee that they can land Peterson this early in the off-season. A lot of teams are going to be throwing offers at the best running back in the NFL. And even if Peterson makes it known that he wants to be traded (which is rumored to have already happened), money talks. Unless Jones is willing to really open up his pocket book, Peterson may find himself in a different city’s backfield. And until the Cowboys have signed Peterson it would be silly to let Murray walk.
- Murray is younger than Peterson. Although both backs are in their prime right now, Murray has more production seasons remaining than Peterson. Murray’s 2014 season is simply too much to ignore.
Letting Murray walk would certainly be a mistake on the part of the Dallas Cowboys. Sure, the Cowboys will have some issues to deal with, salary cap and otherwise, in resigning both Murray and Bryant. But in the end, the win column and the fans will benefit from it.