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The Curious Case Of Ryan Williams And The Cowboys

Why has a practice squad player turned down repeated attempts by other teams to sign him?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys face another "really need to win" game against the Indianapolis Colts. There is still some uncertainty about DeMarco Murray, who is making every effort to be ready for the game after fracturing a bone in his left hand. It is just not known how much that might affect his play. It looks like it is going to be a game-time decision, but if he has trouble with his hand, he could also be pulled even if he starts the game.

With Doug Free and Zack Martin also facing injury issues, Dallas will have to come up with some answers should Murray not be able to go or have ball security issues. They have Joseph Randle, his primary backup, and Lance Dunbar. And there is another option hiding on the practice squad, Ryan Williams.

You may remember Williams from training camp. At least as far as the eye test went, he looked like a very good running back, perhaps even a better runner than Randle. However, he was not believed to be very good in pass protection, a big requirement for anyone in the backfield with Tony Romo. He also tweaked his groin, and was unclaimed when the Cowboys cut him before the season. This allowed Dallas to get him signed to the practice squad. All season, there has been speculation (especially here at BTB) that Williams was there in case one of the other running backs was injured, and that he might also be part of the contingency plans if Murray should wind up going somewhere else for more money in free agency. The only worry was that someone would try to sign him off the practice squad. Any player would jump at a chance to go from a practice squad to a 53-man roster with another team (which comes with a three week minimum payment under the CBA), right?

Well, apparently not.

This is an odd thing to see. Williams, who was drafted in 2011 by the Arizona Cardinals, but only played in five games for them during the 2012 season due to injury issues, would have seemed like someone who would jump at the chance to go from making $6,300 a week to a weekly paycheck of $37,940 (assuming he qualifies as having three years time in the league). I am not certain about the rules, but even if he only qualified for the one year he played, his pay would be $29,100 a week. A few weeks into the season, the minimum three weeks pay at even that lower rate would be more than he could earn for the rest of the year on the PS. He refused that. And he didn't turn the money down once. He turned it down about 10 times. I could understand players having some aversion to certain situations in the league, but with 10 offers, there had to have been some teams trying to sign him that were good places to land.

Something else looks to be going on here. There may be an element of gratitude for getting another chance at his career, but you can't deposit that in your bank account. Perhaps he has been told he could get called up at any moment, but that is true of any player on the practice squad. And if the team was stringing him along, making his chances look better than they really were, he would surely have seen through that and taken one of those offers. Even with Murray's injury, there seems to be no interest in promoting Williams.

Perhaps he is just very happy in Dallas. Or, maybe, he thinks he has a future with the Cowboys.

That last possibility would seem to make the most sense. With the quandary the team faces over how much they can pay Murray, versus what he would be able to get on the free agent market, there may well be a chance for Williams to make the roster in 2015. He will have an advantage in having practiced with the team for an entire season, letting him get to know the offense and letting the staff get to know him. And with his injury history, a year on the PS may have helped him get healthier than going somewhere else and maybe playing.

All that is just guesswork, of course. Unless he talks to someone about why, we really won't have any idea why he is taking a smaller paycheck to stay on the Cowboys' practice squad than he could get elsewhere. It just seems unusual, especially when he is in fairly high demand.

Call it a hunch, but I think we will see much more of Mr. Williams next season.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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