It’s no surprise to anyone who has followed the Dallas Cowboys and owner and general manager Jerry Jones with any kind of regularity, money is thrown around with no real regard to future consequences. A handful of very poor contracts have landed the Cowboys in a pinch, and it has affected this year’s off-season in terms of talent acquisition and flexibility. Because of this, Jones has had to do a great deal of contract restructuring as well as showing some players the door.
There are still a handful of players that have sizable contracts and spent a good deal of time last year on the sideline, for one reason or another. This is a real problem if Dallas wants to get out of mediocrity, and into real contention.
Jay Ratliff falling on a list like this is no surprise to any of you. He missed substantial time last season and some say he has lost a step. He has been playing out of position in Dallas’ prior 3-4 defensive scheme considering his size (6’4″, 304 lbs.) and what he was required to do in the trenches. The switch to a 4-3 scheme should benefit him more than most now that he can shoot a gap and not have to take on constant double teams. Because of his history of injuries, his sizable contract, and the fact this new defensive scheme is tailor-made for him, Ratliff needs to blow the coaching staff and front office away or he could very likely be a cap casualty next year.
A comeback may not even matter if Doug Free doesn’t agree to a pay decrease, but let’s say he does take one to stay in Dallas. If that’s the case he needs to show the coaches and Jerry he still has what it takes to lock down the right side of the line. He played well last year after he was demoted and forced to play as a rotational guy. That may light a fire under him and get him to clean up his act and protect his quarterback. Again none of this matters if he get’s the ax in the coming weeks.
DeMarco Murray is in a different class in terms of being a full-fledged veteran and needing a bounce-back year. He won’t be cut in the near future from the looks of things, but he is still playing on his rookie contract. If he wants to get paid, and Jerry loves to throw around the money, then he needs to stay healthy and find the end zone.
There are a few things that have been put in place in order to help Murray stay on the field, and they came in this year’s draft. Rookies Joseph Randle and Travis Frederick are the biggest help-mates brought in and they will assist Murray as he tries to play a full year injury free.
Randle is a similar player when compared to Murray. He can block on passing downs, he is a good receiver, and he has a nose for the end zone. He is a complete back that will compliment Murray and spell him throughout the game.
As for Frederick, he is a mauler that will instantly upgrade whichever interior position he occupies come week one. If the others on the line feed off his intensity and nastiness, the line will be much improved. When the line is blocking well, Murray will have the breathing room to pick up some yards and at the same time hopefully stay healthy. His next paycheck depends on it.