Dallas Cowboys

Signing bonus for Ryan Williams gives Cowboys backfield options

Running back Ryan Williams has shown a lot of potential on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.
Running back Ryan Williams has shown a lot of potential on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. Star-Telegram

The Cowboys have yet to decide on what they will do with free-agent running back DeMarco Murray, who led the league in rushing in 2014 with 1,845 yards.

He will be coveted on the open market and the Cowboys have to figure out how much they are willing to pay to keep him.

All that has yet to play out.

But the Cowboys might have offered a clue into their thought process for the position when they signed Ryan Williams to a two-year futures contract after the season.

Williams, who spent all season on the practice squad, got a $240,000 signing bonus and an average salary of $750,000 for 2015 and 2016, per NFLPA records.

That’s certainly not close to what Murray will command in free agency, but that’s nice chunk for a running back who didn’t touch the ball at all last season. It certainly means the Cowboys have plans for Williams in 2015.

Williams won’t be tabbed to replace Murray if he leaves in free agency, but he could be part of the equation at the position that right now includes 2014 backups Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar.

If not a replacement for Murray, Williams’ contract could mean trouble for Dunbar, who is a restricted free agent and coming off a disappointing season in which the Cowboys didn’t find a role for him as planned.

There is a real good chance the Cowboys might not tender Dunbar a restricted free-agent contract offer because it comes with a $1.575 million price tag. That’s a lot of money for a running back who had 99 yards on 29 carries and no touchdowns in 2014.

Williams is not your ordinary practice squad running back. He was a second-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in the same 2011 draft that the Cowboys took Murray in the third round.

Williams’ career in Arizona was derailed almost immediately by injuries, namely a torn patella tendon as a rookie.

He came to Dallas in 2014 hoping to revive his career. That could finally happen in 2015.

Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760

Twitter: @clarencehilljr