While our own FPW Tom Ryle wrote a very excellent and insightful article on the role of Jerry Jones the general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, he pointed out how the decisions that the front office makes are through consensus. As the front office staff improves, the decisions improve, and there is no reason to believe that this front office will falter in the decision of what to do with DeMarco Murray.
There are four routes that the Cowboys could take:
1. Let Murray test the free agency waters and see what the market says about what he is worth and then sign him for something close to that.
2. Sign Murray for something close to what the rumored offer is. The rumored offer is for four years and around $16 million which works out to about $4 million per year. That offer may just be a starting point and so it could go up some from that, but I doubt it goes up much more than $6 million per year which would be about right considering how much teams value the relative value of the position which has been on the decline for several years now.
3. Give him the "Franchise Tag" so as to mitigate the possible harm that a long-term contract can do if his production falls off in the very near future by having a lot of dead money on the books.
4. Let him walk if he won't sign what the Cowboys consider a reasonable offer considering all the factors that go into the running back position and the surrounding help he is getting from the Cowboys offensive line and great play-calling by the offensive coordinator.
If the Cowboys choose door number four, then they are left with several good options:
A. Go with the current running backs on the roster and let the group compete for the starters' job. I would think that they could go with the current trend of not having one single back that gets the majority of the carries, but rather go with the running-back-by-committee route.
B. Wait until April 15th of this year and see what happens with the outcome of the Minnesota Vikings decision of what they are going to do with Adrian Peterson if he applies for and gets reinstated. According to this statement over at Rotoworld.com, Peterson is due $13 million this coming season and it is unclear as to whether he will accept a pay cut if the Vikings will not pay that $13 million especially when his heart appears to be in Dallas, Texas.
C. Take a running back in the draft once the defense has been addressed and let him compete with the current crop on the roster.
D. Find a free agent not named Peterson that will compete with the current crop.
E. A combination of the above options C and D.
Given the history of what happens to running backs the season following a year where they got over 350 carries, as shown by the articles listed below, they almost always went downhill, not only the next year, but for the following years as well. Murray had 392 rushing attempts and 450+ touches last year.
- Effect of Running Back Carries on Future Production
- 370 Carries Revisited
- Running Back Study - Carrying the Load
Running backs who have carried the ball 350+ times in a season0 running backs have more than four seasons with 350+ carries2 running backs have four seasons with 350+ carries2 running backs have three seasons with 350+ carries7 running backs have two seasons with 350+ carries12 running backs have one season with 350+ carries
When you read the above three articles it becomes very clear that the Cowboys should not commit to a long-term contract with Murray because of the risk that "bell-cow" running backs have and to me the worst choice from the list above is option number one.
Options two, or four, seem to be reasonable but option number three seems to be one that is not very promising as the "tag" will cost about $11 million this next year.
From this article we find some very interesting tidbits including this about Murray.
The Cowboys were content to let Murray play out his rookie contract but executive vice president Stephen Jones has indicated the team's desire to sign Murray long term has increased with his hot start. Murray may want to take advantage of Dallas rethinking its position on him. All the running backs who have reached the $7 million per year mark on contracts under the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) have re-signed with their own clubs before hitting the free-agent market. Forte and Rice were effectively taken out of the market in 2012 with franchise tags. It's been a buyer's market in free agency with running backs in recent years. This may be because of a lack of supremely talented running backs in their primes being available. Johnson set the market this year by signing a two-year, $8 million deal (includes an additional $1 million in salary escalators) with the Jets shortly after the Titans released him.
I would have to think that the best we as Cowboy fans can hope for if he leaves is for the current crop, minus Murray, to compete with either a draft pick or low-priced free agent.