An Extension For Cowboys' Murray?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The idea has begun to float that the Cowboys could extend DeMarco Murray, is this good plan or no?

Over the last couple of days, I've heard two of the DFW media members I trust the most indicate that extending DeMarco Murray's contract was a distinct possibility. First, Bryan Broaddus broached the idea on the draft show at Dallascowboys.com, saying that he has heard "whispers that they're talking to (Murray)" after the deflated market for NFL running backs. Then about 30 or 45 minutes later, this article, written by Todd Archer was posted by ESPN's NFL Nation. (To be fair to Archer, it is likely that his article was written before Broaddus mentioned the idea on dc.com but was posted at the time it was due to scheduling).

In his article, Archer points out that the best multi-year deals for running backs (Rashad Jennings, Toby Gerhart, Donald Brown) averaged just over $3 Million a year, compared to the $1.4 Million that Murray is scheduled to make in 2014.

Murray and the Cowboys running game are important parts of the offense, and should be looked at as a legitimate strength going into 2014. Having a running back who runs for 1,124 yards in a season is no joke in this era of the NFL, especially when that back missed 2 full games due to injury, and the team ran the ball less than 10 times in another game (Minnesota), however, diving a little deeper into the numbers might give a different perspective.

Football Outsiders tracks a number called "Adjusted Line Yards" which attempts to disperse the credit(and blame) for successful and not so successful rushing plays between the Offensive Linemen and the running back. The Cowboys offensive line ranked 4th in the NFL accounting for 4.23 Yards per rush. Which begs the question, could any running back have had a similar level of success that Murray had, averaging 95.5 yds/game over the last 6 weeks?

This question makes the decision to extend DeMarco Murray a much more complex one, which we will all get to watch unfold over the next year should the Cowboys wait to pull the trigger. Here's a look at how FO measures adjusted line yards:

Based on regression analysis, the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:

  • Losses: 120% value
  • 0-4 Yards: 100% value
  • 5-10 Yards: 50% value
  • 11+ Yards: 0% value
These numbers are then adjusted based on down, distance, situation, opponent, and the difference in rushing average between shotgun compared to standard formations. Finally, we normalize the numbers so that the league average for Adjusted Line Yards per carry is the same as the league average for RB yards per carry.
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