DeMarco Murray was arguably the best and most productive player in the NFL last year. While Aaron Rodgers may have exceeded what Murray did last year with the Cowboys in the final month of the season, Murray was able to carry the Cowboys on his back for the first half of the season and help the team gain the confidence it needed to win the NFC East and go on to the playoffs for the first time since the 2009 season.
But during the offseason, there was no talk from Dallas about the importance of bringing back a running back that gained 1,845 yards and scored 13 touchdowns and caught 57 passes.
Think about that for a second. Jerry Jones was largely silent about this dominant stud who is just coming into his prime. Surely, Jones had to have warm feelings for the 27-year-old Murray and what he could do for the Cowboys in 2015 and beyond.
Jones has been known for his hyperbole since he bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. He has become one of the most powerful owners in football, and while the Cowboys had struggled in recent seasons, they appeared to get the train back on the tracks last year. Murray was the engine.
Jones did not want to overpay for his running back, and when Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles were willing to do just that, Murray left for the City of Brotherly Love and a five-year, $42 million deal that includes $21 million guaranteed.
The Eagles are thrilled that they not only have a superstar running back, they are dancing because they took him away from their hated rival.
But Jones is not crying. He has other plans up his sleeve, and the Cowboys may not rue the day that Murray put his signature on a contract with the Eagles.
Jones knows that his team has a big, powerful, nasty and consistent offensive line. He has a group that is capable of opening holes for any running back, and he believes that Murray’s production may have been more of a function of the offensive line’s excellence than Murray’s standout ability.
If that’s what he really believes, Jones will be able to stick backup running back Joseph Randle in the lineup and get 1,500 yards out of him next year. If that doesn’t suit his fancy, he could draft a running back in the third or fourth round and watch him dominate.
Neither of those plans are likely on the horizon. Jones has his eye on Adrian Peterson, who couldn’t be more unhappy with the Vikings management and wants out of Minnesota in a hurry.
It doesn’t matter that Peterson has warm feelings for head coach Mike Zimmer and likes how he is leading the team. Peterson feels insulted by the way he has been treated by owner Zygi Wilf’s minions, and he doesn’t want to play for the Vikings.
Peterson was unable to play past the first game of the season in 2014 due to the horrific child-beating case that caused commissioner Roger Goodell to force him to the sidelines for the rest of the season.
That suspension has been lifted, and Peterson is planning to play in 2015. This Palestine, Texas native would be the ideal performer to step into the Cowboys backfield.
There has been quite a bit of speculation that Peterson desperately wants to be a Cowboy and that Jones understands this. Look for Jones and the Cowboys to work some kind of trade for Peterson shortly before the draft in late April.
This will probably play out in dramatic fashion, but Peterson will find himself in a Dallas uniform in Week One of the 2015 season.
While Peterson’s action toward his young son may be disgusting and brutal, there is no doubt that he is a brilliant and powerful running back when healthy. Would he have edged out Murray for the rushing title last year if he had been in the lineup for the Vikings? That’s questionable.
However, if you put a motivated Peterson behind the Cowboys’ sensational offensive line that includes All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, the record book would be in jeopardy. There’s every chance that Peterson could become the NFL’s all-time single-season rushing leader, exceeding Eric Dickerson’s 2,105-yard season that he put together in 1984.
Jones clearly has something big planned. There’s no way he would be willing to let Murray slide through his fingers and sign with the Eagles if he didn’t.
Jones has been quiet, but he will be making a lot of noise very shortly.