Locking Up MB III; Dallas Must Move Quick

Three years ago Cowboys fans were left scratching their collective heads when Dallas drafted Minnesota RB Marion Barber III in the fourth round.

After all, Dallas had already used its first pick in the 2004 draft on another running back- Notre Dame's Julius Jones. He was supposed to be the next Emmitt Smith, or at the very least, a legitimate home run threat who score any time he touched the ball.

Today, it's an entirely different story.

Fresh off his first Pro Bowl campaign, Barber is now known as the toughest running back in the league and Jones is on his way out of Dallas.

After recording 975 yards on just 204 carries this past season, Marion Barber is ready to take his game, and the Dallas Cowboys, to the next level.

Simply put, he'd rather run through you than around you. He'd rather punish you by delivering the big hit, picking up an extra yard or two along the way, instead of sneaking out of bounds.

Indeed, Marion Barber has come into his own.

And that's one of about 100 reasons why the Cowboys need to move quickly in giving Barber the kind of contract he needs for the long-term.

Enough of the Darren McFadden talk.

He'll be a good back, but he's unproven. He's never played a down in the National Football League. And furthermore, right now, he's unobtainable for the Dallas Cowboys.

That's right.

The speculation that was put out there by Chris Mortensen earlier in the week suggesting Dallas was willing to part ways with its two first round picks and Barber to trade up to the No. 1 spot in the 2008 draft to take McFadden was nothing more than a smokescreen.

At this point, as close as the Cowboys are to getting back to the Super Bowl for the first time in more than 12 years, the team doesn't need Darren McFadden.

It needs Marion Barber and it needs Marion Barber locked into a long-term deal.

Barber, with his punishing running style gives the Cowboys' offense and element of aggression and toughness. To lose that would be a tremendous mistake- especially playing in one of the toughest divisions in all of football - the NFC East.

To lock him up in a long-term deal would be like punching a ticket to the playoffs for the next five seasons.

The young combination of Barber and Romo, not to mention the young wide receiver Dallas will pick up in free agency or the first two rounds of the draft, will be the future.

So what happens now? How do the Cowboys make sure they keep their star running back wearing the silver and blue?

As a restricted free agent, Barber could have options, but don't expect those options to last long.

Unless something completely ridiculous comes along from another team, the Cowboys will match anything else put on the table.

But before it comes to that, how about just go ahead and get a deal done?

No trades. No moving up for Darren McFadden unless he falls in your lap and Marion Barber is not included as part any kind of trade.

Lock him up and lock this team down for a playoff run in each of the next five seasons.

It's been a long time since the Cowboys have had a running back like Marion Barber.

Don't mess it up now.

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