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Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Position Series: Running backs

By Tim MacMahon

Players: Felix Jones (signed through 2012), Marion Barber (signed through 2014), Tashard Choice (signed through 2011), Lonyae Miller (signed through 2011)

Barber
With no guaranteed money left on his contract, it makes sense for the Cowboys to release running back Marion Barber, who butted heads with coach Jason Garrett last season.
Top free agents: DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers; Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants; Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals; Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts; Darren Sproles, San Diego Chargers

Top draft prospects: Mark Ingram, Alabama; Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech; Mikel Leshoure, Illinois; Daniel Thomas, Kansas State; Demarco Murray, Oklahoma

2010 review: Felix Jones failed to wow after becoming the lead horse in September. He finished the season with a respectable 1,250 total yards (800 rushing and 450 receiving), but he wasn’t the gamebreaker he had been in a lesser role. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry – down from 5.9 as a change-of-pace back the previous season – and scored only two touchdowns. Marion Barber had the worst year of his career while cashing $7.8 million of Jerry Jones’ checks. He had career lows in every major rushing and receiving category. His average of 3.3 yards per carry ranked 45th of 47 backs who had enough carries to qualify. Tashard Choice didn’t make much of an impact other than his terrific performance in the road win over the Colts, when he rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Lonyae Miller did a solid job on special teams when promoted from the practice squad late in the season.

Offseason preview: It’s time to bid farewell to Barber. His production hasn’t come close to justifying his seven-year, $45 million contract and continues to trend down. He has butted heads with head coach Jason Garrett, most notably by his defiant refusal to adhere to the travel dress code before Garrett’s interim coaching debut. And there’s no more guaranteed money left on his deal. It would make no sense to pay him his $4.25 million salary next season. Even with Barber’s departure, running back isn’t a pressing need. Jones and Choice should be able to form a respectable tandem, especially if the Cowboys can address the issues on the offensive line. Maybe the Cowboys use a mid- to late-round pick on a back to challenge Miller for the No. 3 role, but it’d be surprising if they invested heavily in this position this offseason.

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