The Dallas Cowboys are thinking about using the franchise tag on Dez Bryant this winter and that could help with signing DeMarco Murray to a free agent contract, but if the team lets him go there is chance that Jerry Jones brings in Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson or CJ Spiller if they are becomes available in free agency.
The Cowboys knew that it would be tough to sign Bryant and Murray this offseason, with Jones acknowledging that keeping the players would be "difficult" in his season ending press conference. According to ESPN.com, the Cowboys are "leaning towards" using the franchise tag on Bryant, which would give the team time to sign a long term deal and could have Bryant back in 2015 on a one year contract.
Bryant had 16 touchdowns last season and has been looked at as the priority for the Cowboys over Murray. Most players do not like the franchise tag and while Bryant expressed some dismay on social media about the prospect of getting tagged, there is a good chance the Cowboys work out a deal. According to Ed Werder at ESPN.com, if Bryant is tagged, the wide receiver likely will skip offseason workouts and OTAs and it could take until the summer to get a deal worked out.
The Cowboys have the money to sign both players, but they also have a tight cap situation with Tony Romo's contract. ESPN Dallas reporter Todd Archer detailed some moves the Cowboys could make this offseason to help free up some salary cap space, including cutting Brandon Carr or restructuring his contract. Romo could look at restructuring his deal as well to free up money and the Cowboys may also cut some veteran players. The team wants to sign back Murray, but they also have other options they could look at if he leaves for another club. According to CBS Sports, Adrian Peterson is interested in playing for the Cowboys and the Vikings could potentially look at a trade or his release this offseason.
The Cowboys could also look at Marshawn Lynch if the Seahawks can't reach a contract agreement, while Frank Gore is another name available on the market. The Cowboys were one of the best rushing teams in the league last season and if they lose Murray they will need to find a solid replacement. Joseph Randle has shown some solid development, but with his issues off the field, the Cowboys cannot rely on him as starter.
Bryant is not going anywhere for the Cowboys, as he is the key to the offense after the way he dominated last season. Romo had one of his most productive and efficient years in 2014 and he is hoping to have both Murray and Bryant back. The Cowboys ranked second in the league in rushing with nearly 150 yards per game and that was one of the reasons why they went 12-4 and won the NFC East division title. Peterson would be a strong option despite his age, as he has had a year off and would be very motivated to have a huge season after all that went on in 2104 surrounding him.