The Dallas Cowboys have some of the toughest decisions to make of any NFL team this offseason. Their top two playmakers, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant, are headed for free agency and looking for expensive contracts. While the NFC East champs could choose to bring back both players that helped them win 12 games in 2014, the team could look elsewhere for a replacement.
The possibility of giving Murray a contract extension might be the most difficult decision the Cowboys face all offseason. He was the team’s best player last year, leading the league with 1,845 rushing yards and totaling at least 100 rushing yards in 12 regular-season games. However, Dallas might not be willing to pay too much money for a running back.
It’s possible that the Cowboys could land one of the league’s top rushers, if they decide to let Murray go. Since last year, there have been rumors that Adrian Peterson has been interested in playing for the Cowboys. According to Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole, the Minnesota Vikings star wants to go to Dallas.
Peterson hasn’t suited up since Week 1 of last season, after he was suspended following an indictment on a charge for negligent injury to a child. The 29-year-old has yet to be reinstated, and that won’t happen until April 15 at the earliest, unless the NFL Players Association wins their case, on behalf of Peterson.
Assuming he’s able to play in 2015, Peterson might not do so for the Vikings. He's still under contract in 2015, set to make $12.7 million, and a recent report indicates that Minnesota might be looking to move on. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that Ben Dogra, Peterson’s agent, and Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski got into a “heated verbal altercation” last week. One person close to Peterson said that the running back won’t return to Minnesota.
“He will never play another game for the Vikings,” the source told CBS Sports. “It's over.”
Peterson is the highest paid running back in all of football, and it probably more sense for the Cowboys to extend the younger Murray than seek an older option. Recent events, though, make Peterson a potential option at running back instead of Murray next year, giving the Cowboys a chance to contend for a Super Bowl without downgrading the position. Doing so also could allow the Dallas to give Bryant a lengthy extension, while not having to be locked into a long-term deal at another position.
Murray was terrific in 2014, but he could have a difficult time duplicating that success in 2015. He never rushed for more than 1,121 yards or played more than 14 games in any of his previous three seasons.
Murray carried the ball 392 times in the regular season, in addition to 44 playoff carries, and he could have a difficult time recovering from that next year. He became the first player since Michael Turner in 2008 to have at least 370 carries, and players that have carried the ball at least that many times have struggled the following season. The 28 running backs that have carried the ball 370 times or more in a season missed an average of 3.3 games the next season, seeing their average rushing yards decrease by almost 25 yards per contest.
He’s three years older than Murray, but Peterson could prove to be more durable in 2015. He only ran the ball 21 times last year because of the suspension. Before he was forced to sit out the majority of the 2014 season, Peterson was widely considered to be the best running back in the NFL.
Team owner Jerry Jones has stated that he wants Murray to retire with the Cowboys. If the 27-year-old does return to Dallas, the team isn’t likely to rely on him as much as they did last season.
“I don’t think we would go into a season now with Murray thinking that he was going to have the load that he had last year,” Jones said on Saturday. “I don’t believe we would.”
Last year marked the first time that Murray even carried the ball more than 217 times. He’s averaging 85.4 yards per game on 4.8 yards per carry in his four-year career.