On Monday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys used the franchise tag on their star wideout Dez Bryant, securing him at least for next season. However, such a move leaves the NFL’s offensive player of the year award winner and now unrestricted free agent DeMarco Murray to test the waters of free agency.
In light of the trade between Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy for Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso, fans around the league were stunned.
Both backs may not run similar, Murray a more downhill runner, while McCoy, the more agile and breakaway speed type scat back, but even though they are opposite, they have one stat line in common.
Well, let’s just ponder Cowboys beat writer for The Dallas Morning News Jon Machota and his Twitter account:
Value of running back position? Most yards over last two seasons: DeMarco Murray 2,966 (testing free agency) LeSean McCoy 2,926 (traded)
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 4, 2015
Murray did have the best franchise rushing total in a single season (1,845), breaking Hall of Famer running back and the NFL’s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith’s record (1,773) back in 1995.
McCoy rather swapped seasons with Murray rushing for 1,607 yards in 2013 with a 5.1 average yard per carry, dropping slightly to 1,319 in 2014; both in 16 games.
Both are close in comparison, but in Machota’s aforementioned tweet, one aspect is scary if you cheer for the Cowboys. McCoy was traded to Buffalo yesterday, so what does that mean for Dallas’ workhorse?
There are obviously two options here: Murray can stay with Dallas while receiving as much or close to the offers he’ll surely hear from teams who are desperate for a premier running back. Which brings us to his last option, Murray will sign with a different team given the money the Cowboys simply could not afford.
“[Murray] is probably going to, you know, get some peace and see what’s out on the market and then we’ll talk and see,” Cowboys Vice President Stephen Jones told FOX Sports on Sunday. “I do believe deep down he’d love to stay in Dallas.”
Let’s hope you’re right, Mr. Jones.
Murray works in Dallas play caller Scott Linehan’s system as good as anybody. Run the ball until it’s absolutely necessary to throw it. Lineman’s methods aren’t like most offensive coordinators, especially in the league’s air-it-out style of play. However, there are multiple teams who could use the All-pro running back no matter what system he’s thronged into.
The Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders are among the top teams with enough cap space likely to make a high bid for Murray.
Imagine a backfield filled with Andrew Luck and DeMarco Murray. Thanks to Luck, the Colts have reached the playoffs in each of his three years in the league after picking him No. 1 overall to replace the future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Trent Richardson was a bust and the veteran Ahmad Bradshaw cannot last a whole season due to injury.
Now Murray has had multiple injuries in each year he’s been in the league, even this last season breaking a bone in his hand which he played through.
Murray cannot sign a deal until March 10 with any team, let alone a new and top-dollar contract to the Cowboys.
Dallas’ head coach Jason Garrett believes both Murray and Dez played a large role in their success last season, but he truly believes in what championship teams are made of.
“We’ve talked about some guys being first-round guys,” Garrett said. “DeMarco is a heck of a football player. And he has been since we drafted him a few years back. If you really look at it, running the football is an important part of all championship-type teams. Controlling the line of scrimmage is big.
“We’ve made a lot of organizational emphasis over the last few years to use our resources to shore up that offensive line. That’s paid dividends for us. But the runner does matter.”