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2015 Cowboys Offseason: What To Do At Running Back

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The Cowboys running back situation has been a focal point this offseason. Where do the Cowboys turn to for their feature back? Free agency, re-sign their own or do they rely on the draft?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have some questions at running back. Will they re-sign DeMarco Murray? Will they look to the draft? Or... the one story that just won't go away and of course I am referring to Adrian Peterson. Many fans and some in the media have been chomping at the bit to bring him back home to the state of Texas. We all know that he is a freak of an athlete and if you could somehow put him behind this offensive line the records would be expected to be shattered. There are a couple of obstacles that stood in the way. One of which is on the cusp of being resolved.

News broke today that Judge Doty had overturned the suspension but that was later corrected. The Star Tribune states that the NFL worked swiftly to appeal Judge Doty's ruling.

Adrian Peterson finally got a legal victory Thursday with a federal judge’s reinstatement order, but the ruling was swiftly appealed by the NFL.

A daylong burst of legal activity left the star running back’s status with the Vikings virtually unchanged. The team released a two-sentence statement saying Peterson’s status is in the hands of the league, the players’ union and the legal system.

"Adrian Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our organization," the statement said.

So as it currently sits Peterson is still not reinstated so it would be illogical to speculate or ponder the possibility of him coming to the Cowboys. Here is the short list of free agent running backs that could be considered as an option.

Running Back Team 2014 Salary
Chris Johnson New York Jets $2,750,000
Mark Ingram New Orleans Saints $2,359,875
Reggie Bush Detroit Lions $2,944,117
Steven Jackson Atlanta Falcons $4,166,666

Another option would be re-signing DeMarco Murray. Murray is coming off a career year. He is the first back since Larry Johnson to post a 392+ carry season. Only nine running backs in NFL history have ever completed that feat with James Wilder in 1985 the only one coming anywhere near repeating that success.

Player Year Team Games Rushes Average Yards Yd per carry yd per game TD
DeMarco Murray 2015 ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
DeMarco Murray 2014 Dallas Cowboys 16 392 24.5 1,845 4.7 115.3 13
Larry Johnson 2007 Kansas City Chiefs 8 158 19.8 559 3.5 69.9 3
Larry Johnson 2006 Kansas City Chiefs 16 416 26 1,789 4.3 111.8 17
Jamal Anderson 1999 Atlanta Falcons 2 19 9.5 59 3.1 29.5 0
Jamal Anderson 1998 Atlanta Falcons 16 410 25.6 1,846 4.5 115.4 14
James Wilder 1985 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16 365 22.8 1,300 3.6 81.3 10
James Wilder 1984 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16 407 25.4 1,544 3.8 96.5 13
Eric Dickerson 1987 Los Angeles Rams 3 60 20 277 4.6 92.3 1
Eric Dickerson 1986 Los Angeles Rams 16 404 25.2 1,821 4.5 113.8 11
Eddie George 2001 Tennessee Titans 16 315 19.7 939 3 58.7 5
Eddie George 2000 Tennessee Titans 16 403 25.2 1,509 3.7 94.3 14
Gerald Riggs 1986 Atlanta Falcons 16 343 21.4 1,327 3.9 82.9 9
Gerald Riggs 1985 Atlanta Falcons 16 397 24.8 1,719 4.3 107.4 10
Ricky Williams 2005 Miami Dolphins 12 168 14 743 4.4 61.9 6
Ricky Williams 2003 Miami Dolphins 16 392 24.5 1,372 3.5 85.8 9
Terrell Davis 1999 Denver Broncos 4 67 16.8 211 3.1 26 2
Terrell Davis 1998 Denver Broncos 16 392 24.5 2,008 5.1 70 21

While it isn't likely that Murray would repeat that production he does a lot of things well. With the off field problems of Joseph Randle his value likely increases. No other running back had the hot start Murray did. Not even Emmitt Smith, O.J. Simpson or Jim Brown, who is arguably the best to ever lace up football cleats. Much like he did in college, Murray was as valuable as a receiver as a running back. So why all the commotion about the possibility of Murray being sent packing? Well, it is clearly a change of team philosophy.

The new theory in the NFL is the draft a back theory. Get a younger back for around $500,000 and let the work horse find a job elsewhere. A philosophy that isn't too far fetched. The Cowboys used Murray like they were buying into this theory. Murray carried this team while Tony Romo was given time to build strength in his back and become the Romo of old. It is hard to imagine that the Cowboys would let the man who just won the NFL Offensive MVP award just walk away.

So who could the Cowboys look at in the draft class if they do indeed want to just replace Murray with a cheaper rookie? By now you should be familiar with the names. Here is the list of guys you should get accustomed to hearing about between now and the NFL Draft.

Todd Gurley, Georgia

Gurley is coming off of an ACL injury which can be scary when you think about it being a non-contact injury. He is by far the most talented back in the class regardless of the injury. What could give you hope is that he played less than half of the teams snaps while in Athens. He doesn't have the wear and tear of some others in this class. Gurley is the one back of the class that I would consider a first round option.

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Gordon is fun to watch with the ball in his hand. He had the NCAA rushing record for a single game for about a week before that was outdone. Unlike Gurley, Gordon has the wear and tear. He carried the ball 631 times in his collegiate career with 343 of them coming this season. He had a monster year but he does have holes in his game.

Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

Abdullah had a great combine and is a high character guy. He showed off his athletic ability but there are concerns with size and ball security. He seems to be a natural fit for the zone blocking scheme and can be a good receiver out of the backfield. I do worry with his size that he won't be able to handle bigger blitzers. A great option after the Gurley and Gordon.

T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

Big shock with another Alabama running back near the top of the class. Yeldon has the athletic ability and quickness to create when the blocking isn't there. With this line that wouldn't be much of an issue. Like Abdullah he does have some ball security issues but makes up for it in other aspects of his game.

One way or another the Cowboys will have a good backfield in 2015.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference and Salary numbers courtesy of Over The Cap.