In his Five Wonders series, ESPN's Todd Archer wonders this week whether the recently benched DeMarco Murray could find his way back to Dallas. Here's Archer's rationale:
The Philadelphia Eagles demoted last week, which is stunning considering the $21 million they guaranteed the running back last March. That’s how bad the season has gone for Murray, who has 163 carries for 569 yards and four touchdowns.
Could the Eagles do the unthinkable and part ways with Murray after the season? The salary cap makes it almost impossible to even think about. His 2016 $7 million base salary is guaranteed. But let’s say the Eagles choose to do it. I wonder if the Cowboys would jump on the chance to re-sign him. Actually, I more than wonder it. I would expect the Cowboys to get involved in the mix.
The Cowboys miss Murray badly, and it’s clear Murray misses the Cowboys. The Eagles’ offense is just not a good fit for Murray. The Cowboys’ offense is a perfect fit. Now, what kind of contract would you give Murray, who would be a year older, although not with the wear of a big-carry season? The Cowboys offered Murray $6 million per year with $12 million guaranteed after he led the NFL with 1,845 yards rushing.
There's an unlimited list of things not to like about the Eagles, but one thing they've done well in the past is their cap management. Sure, GM Chip Kelly has done his darndest to get rid of any excess cap space, but he hasn't succeeded yet, so the Eagles look to be carrying at least $20 M in free cap space into 2016. Yes, they'll probably need to sign an NFL-quality QB with that money (they currently don't have such a player on their roster), but that still leaves a lot of wiggle room, and that's without restructuring any of the big contracts on their roster. If the Eagles want to cut Murray, they can do it without blinking an eye.
For the Cowboys, re-signing Murray could have multiple benefits:
- As Archer writes, Murray is a "perfect fit" for the Cowboys offense. And even though Murray is not getting any younger, he'll still be a good between-the-tackles runner.
- Depending on what kind of offset language Murray's contract in Philly contains, the Cowboys might essentially be getting Murray for free in 2016, as the Eagles will be on the hook for his $7 million salary. The Cowboys got a similar "deal" on Brandon Weeden, though in that specific case they overpaid, regardless of how much money they saved. The Cowboys paid Weeden the NFL minimum salary for two years and the Browns continued to pay the difference between the minimum salary and the guaranteed part of his original contract. Imagine that: Murray plays for the Cowboys for $7 million in 2016 and the Eagles will pay about $6 million of that. Sweetness.
- Regardless of what you think of Darren McFadden and/or Robert Turbin, the Cowboys will probably have to go out in free agency for an extra running back in 2016 - even if they take a running back in the draft. The advantage of signing Murray, if he is indeed released by the Eagles, is that players released by their orginal team won't count as compensatory free agents and won't impact your comp pick totals.
For the Cowboys, re-signing Murray makes so much sense they should "jump on the chance to re-sign him," as Archer writes. The real question here is how badly do the Eagles want to get rid of Murray? Are they willing to swallow $13 million in dead money just because things didn't work out as hoped in year one? And imagine the amount of clownface cake they'd have to eat for letting Murray get back to Dallas.
Taken together, that may simply be too much even for that organization.