Before the 2015 NFL season, it was reported that Lance Dunbar was going to have a bigger role with the Dallas Cowboys. And after just a few weeks in the season, that report turned out to be true as the Cowboys were finding more ways to get him in the football in different subpackages.
"Anytime we've given him opportunities in the past, he seems to be productive with them. Either as a runner or as a receiver, coming out of the backfield and also when he lines up outside, he's just a darn good football player."
In Week 4's matchup against the New Orleans Saints, Dunbar tore both his ACL and MCL. His season was immediately over and the Cowboys immediately lost a weapon that would've been huge for a backup quarterback, whether that quarterback was Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassel. Dunbar proved his big-play capability in 2015, by totaling 282 yards on just 26 opportunities.
The harsh reality is that it is a copycat league and with Chip Kelly getting familiar with Dunbar from his time in the NFC East, it's not a secret that the head coach is interested in bringing the 26-year-old over to play for the San Francisco 49ers. Dallas had been connected to Lamar Miller in free agency before he signed with the Houston Texans and they have also been discussed with Ezekiel Elliott in the first round of the NFL Draft. We don't know how much money they have shown as interest in re-signing Dunbar, butt Dunbar is testing the free agency market.
Dallas saw how big of a role a scatback can play into their offense's plans in 2015 with the uptick in Dunbar's usage. But if Dunbar signs with the 49ers or goes elsewhere this offseason, the Cowboys would be wise to replace his role with another back. He may not cost as little as Dunbar would, but these three backs could all play big roles if needed for the Cowboys in 2016.
I'm putting Bobby Rainey as the first target on this list for a reason. At 28 years old, Rainey doesn't have a ton of wear-and-tear on him and if used in the right role in Dallas, he can contribute both in some packages as a runner and in many packages as a receiving options out of the backfield. Rainey has shownhe can make plays out of the backfield. He is also adept at returning kicks on special teams. Rainey's free agency market hasn't been that crowded so far and if Dunbar goes elsewhere, Rainey could emerge as a candidate for the job.
Dan "Boom" Herron
The Indianapolis Colts declined to tender Boom Herron, who's also a restricted free agent. At 26 years old Herron is known for his nickname. His 2015 campaign was much worse than his 2014 one, but he still has fresh legs and wouldn't come at an expensive toll. Herron's drop in production in 2015 could be contributed to the Colts' lack of an offense. In Dallas, he'd be a guy that could have a few carries and a few opportunities for routes out of the backfield as well.
In 2012, when LeSean McCoy went down with injury, little-known Bryce Brown came in and put on a show for a team that had no business of playing for anything. Brown's NFL career has been an interesting one. Despite being age 24, Brown has been on three teams. That may sound concerning, but it should be said that he hasn't been in the right situation since he left Philadelphia. He's a wild card, who's extremely quick and explosive out of the backfield. His fumbling concerns have been troubling and well-documented over the past few years, but he's the most similar to Dunbar on this list and his price tag would be extremely easy on the checkbook as well.