The offensive backfield had one of the most productive years for the Cowboys. Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray both had record setting performances but how do they project moving into 2015?
Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden, Dustin Vaughan
The quarterback situation seemed very shaky to start off the 2014 campaign. Tony Romo was coming off of his second back surgery in nine months and there was speculation (mine included) that his best days were behind him. After the 49ers game I again felt that I was dead on in my observation. That was very short-sighted as Romo would turn in one of the best performances of his career in the 14 games that would follow. He would go on to set the career yards passing for this franchise with 33,270 yards and counting. Romo has also extended his NFL best most consecutive road games with a touchdown pass (41).
Many fans were upset with bringing in Weeden because of his play during his two-year stint in Cleveland. He is a serviceable backup and he wasn't called upon very often. The Arizona game did not help his case with the fanbase but that defense can rattle the best of quarterbacks not just a backup who has had very little success at the NFL level. His cost was very low so Weeden was worth the contract to have him backup Romo.
Vaughan is the epitome of a project player. He put up incredible numbers at a small school much like Tony Romo did. He has ability and has a cannon for an arm. He needs to be polished and who better to learn from than the guy who did exactly what Vaughan is trying to do.
Weeden is the only player of the group that doesn't have a contract beyond this season. Should the Cowboys refrain from offering him a contract the best option to replace him could be Matt Moore. This organization is very familiar with him and given the state of the quarterbacks in this draft class he seems like a more viable option.
DeMarco Murray, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Ryan Williams
Murray is coming off the best season in Cowboys history breaking Emmitt Smith's record of 1,773 yards that was set during the 1995 run to the Super Bowl. Murray was far and away the best running back in the NFL and garnered the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Murray is the biggest question mark as far as returning next season. Paying a franchise running back big money seems like a bad way to do business. Here Over The Cap did a piece on how history can effect his contract status.
The Cowboys drafted Randle to spell Murray and most likely be his eventual replacement. When he was called upon this season he has some big plays. Most recently you will note his long touchdown run against the Redskins with a loaded box. However his recent actions could cause the Cowboys to look past Randle. As the situation develops it could weigh heavily on how the Cowboys move forward at running back.
Dunbar has a specific role with this team. He is a restricted free agent so his return can almost be guaranteed. His speed and agility makes him a great weapon in this offense especially on third down. With the number of weapons on offense it is hard to fathom that his role will increase any more without the departure of a few players.
Williams is a player that spent the entire season on the practice squad and received a futures contract. He will most likely receive his chance this offseason during mini camps, organized team activities and training camp to prove his worth. He comes relatively cheap but his lack of pass blocking ability could land him as only a reserve role but Williams has the ability to make plays.
The big veteran names you will hear most often in terms of replacing Murray if he leaves are going to be Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram. Ingram seems likely because Jason Garrett has an Alabama connection with Nick Saban. Peterson is the big named Texan that everyone would like to see return home but he is still under contract and still seeking reinstatement to the NFL. The NFL Draft seems the most likely place to find a running back. The one name that seems like he would fit this offense best is Todd Gurley. He is physical and a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Clutts was the only fullback on the roster and he was used mainly as the lead blocker when the Cowboys utilized the typical I formation. His contract expired following the end of the season and one could expect that he won't return in 2015. A rookie will command a lesser contract and the University of Alabama's Jalston Fowler could be great addition to replace him.