(Editor's Note: With free agency beginning March 9, the DallasCowboys.com staff is forecasting the future for five Cowboys currently set to hit the open market. Part 4 spotlights running back Lance Dunbar, who will be an unrestricted free agent. For the full list of Cowboys free agents, visit our *free agency tracker.)*
RB Lance Dunbar
5-8 / 195
4 NFL Seasons
2015 Impact: 4 games; 21 catches, 215 yards
Nick:Before last season, I had my doubts on why Lance Dunbar was a lock to make the team. I wasn't exactly sure what kind of consistent role he would have. Then he catches eight passes against the Giants and you could see the chemistry he had formed with Tony Romo. Even with the backup quarterbacks, Dunbar showed his worth, and was on pace to catch more than 80 balls before his injury. Considering the early-October ACL injury, one would think Dunbar would be ready to go by the start of training camp. But being a free agent, I think we're starting to hear different reports – which might be part of the negotiating strategy from both sides. I think the Cowboys will sign Dunbar and he will have a similar role as he did last year. I'm still drafting a top running back in the early rounds and I would still keep Darren McFadden in the mix as well. But Dunbar is a unique player, with unique skills and I would make sure he is brought back.
Bryan:The tone for Lance Dunbar was set in training camp by Jerry Jones when he questioned Jason Garrett and the coaching staff why Dunbar wasn't used more in games? The message was loud and clear which led staff into finding ways into getting him more opportunities. Dunbar has always shown the ability to be a play maker. He can line up anywhere in the formation and function well. His explosive burst and pass catching ability make him a difficult matchup when he can be isolated one-on-one. If there is an issue with Dunbar and this is no secret, it is his health. In his four seasons he has only played an entire season, one time. With his current situation rehabbing his knee, I could see the front office bringing him back on a one year deal and seeing if they can make it work. I just don't see another club making a commitment to him with that injury history.
David:It's hard to imagine much of a market for a running back who is currently recovering from a major injury – especially considering Lance Dunbar has a long history of coping with injuries during his career. That's exactly why I think it's realistic to think the Cowboys want him back. Simply put, there's not going to be a whole lot of competition for him. I think it's reasonable to think the Cowboys bring him back on an inexpensive, one-year prove-it deal – give him an opportunity to re-establish his value. If you'll remember, Dunbar was on his way to a breakout season when he tore his ACL and MCL in New Orleans last year. He was on pace for 84 catches and 860 yards as the Cowboys' third down back/utility guy. There's value in that, which is why I think it'd be smart for Dallas to bring him back. Of course, I wouldn't say I'd count on him. It remains to be seen when he'll be available to play again, so the Cowboys need to make sure they address the running back spot in other ways. But I still think Dunbar deserves a chance to get his groove back, assuming the price is right – which I'm confident it will be.[embeddedad0]
Rob: : How about this stat: Dunbar was on pace for a team-high 84-catch season before he got hurt against the Saints the first weekend in October. Yeah, that's only a month into the season, but it shows just how much the offense relied on Dunbar's versatility out wide and out of the backfield without Dez Bryant in the lineup and without a settled running back rotation. Now, can they expect the same type of contribution in 2016 coming off a serious knee injury? And what kind of market can Dunbar expect because of his injury? Those are questions that must be answered, but the Cowboys know what Dunbar can do when he's healthy, and for that reason I would imagine they'd be open to re-signing him.