The bean-counters in Big D will have a lot to figure out as we head into the dreaded off-season. The lengthy list of free agents that helped take the Dallas Cowboys to a 12-4 regular season record, an NFC East title, and a trip to the divisional round of the playoffs is daunting, to say the least.
Foremost on the list are two of the core offensive components of that successful squad…of course I’m talking about star wide receiver Dez Bryant and the best running back to grace the Dallas Cowboys backfield since Emmitt Smith left the building, DeMarco Murray.
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Here’s hoping there is some magic dust somewhere at The Ranch because in light of the Cowboys cap situation, they are going to need it to keep both the current #88 and the 2014 NFL rushing champion wearing the Star in 2015. Of the two star players, the departure of Murray has been labeled by many as the most likely option.
The Cowboys will be rolling over approximately $3.26 million of unused cash into the new cap, the exact amount of which has yet to be determined. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but there is also some restructuring that can be done to the contract of some highly paid players.
Number one on that list is quarterback Tony Romo, who, as it stands now, will count an NFL high $27.773 million against the 2015 cap. Since Romo has been one of the most outspoken supporters of keeping his star running back in a Cowboys’ uniform, surely he would be open to some negotiating that would allow Dallas to do just that.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Murray’s breakout season was a major reason that Dallas enjoyed it’s somewhat unexpected success in 2014. Among his accomplishments were a string of eight 100-yards games to open the season that broke the record of six consecutive 100 yard marks that was set by legendary back Jim Brown. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and notched 13 touchdowns in the 2014 campaign. Lest we forget that Murray was also named the AP Offensive Player of the Year at season’s end.
It is also worth noting that Murray played all 16 games for the first time since he was drafted by the Cowboys in the third round of 2011. That includes suiting up for the final two games of the season with a surgically repaired broken hand and breaking Smith’s single-season franchise rushing record in the process.
There are those who would say that the improvement of the Cowboys’ offensive line means that another back can be plugged into the system with similar results of those produced by Murray. Even if that were the case, it would be a scary proposition for Dallas to test that strategy with their current second-string back, Joseph Randle and his off-the-field antics of late. Drafting a running back can also be a risky proposition, considering the fact that success in the college ranks doesn’t always translate to the pros.
It will mean some contract wheeling and dealing, possibly putting the franchise tag on Murray or Bryant, and perhaps parting ways with cornerback Brandon Carr, veteran offensive lineman Doug Free and defensive tackle Henry Melton. However, the limited window of opportunity remaining for some of the core group of Cowboys, including tight end Jason Witten and, yes, Romo, makes keeping this crop of Cowboys together a must-do scenario.
Let the bean counting begin…