The Cowboys roster currently has five running backs as we head to late June. The players are DeMarco Murray (the incumbent starter), Joseph Randle, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar, and Kendial Lawrence. If the this group sustains a major injury, the team could be in trouble as none of these backs outside of Murray has proven anything at the NFL level. With some intriguing options still available in the free agent market, the team may need to consider bringing in an experienced veteran that could hold the fort down if a major injury was to occur.
While Murray has played well for the Cowboys in two seasons with the team, health has been his biggest issue up to this point in time. Simply put Murray has not been able to stay on the field. Randle looks to possibly be a nice find in the 5th round of the 2013 Draft, yet due to a thumb injury he has not been able to get in any practice time. Tanner has played two years with the team and Dunbar was a surprise last year with his quickness. However, to lean too much on one of these young backs would be a detriment to the offense as a whole as these guys aren’t really any more than rotation type players. Lawrence is a speedy, yet undersized undrafted free agent. He played well in college at Missouri, and it is unknown how he will translate at the NFL level.
With multiple options in still available in the free agent pool a month prior to the start of training camp, here are some intriguing names: Michael Turner, Willis McGahee, Cedric Benson, Chris “Beanie” Wells, Mewelde Moore. Turner at age 31 is better suited at this point of his career to be a complementary back instead of the main workhorse after being used so much in Atlanta the past five seasons. He will likely wait awhile to see if a starting job with a higher salary becomes available once the preseason starts and injuries occur.
McGahee (31) was waived very recently as they have a crowed backfield full of young backs in Denver. He would sign a veteran contract and would be a good insurance policy. McGahee is still getting right from his knee injury from last season, but should be fine by the time the Cowboys would need him midway thru the season. Benson is the third guy I would have a high interest in. Benson is a Texas product and is age 30 and coming off a season that ended as a member of the Green Bay Packers injured reserve unit due to a foot injury. Again, he would be fully healed by the time the team needed his services and is a guy that can run between the tackles and catch the ball as well.
While it remains to be seen how the team flushes out the roster, a veteran presence would be a nice addition to bolster the running back corp. This move would be more likely in July or August, but is one to keep an eye out for as the team decides how they want to use their remaining salary cap space.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH