Lately I seem to be having a lot of trouble with conventional wisdom about what the Dallas Cowboys are going to do this offseason. The latest bit that I am beginning to take issue with is the widely discussed idea that the Cowboys are not going to be able to find the cap space to sign their star running back, DeMarco Murray. Coming off a season where he literally ran away with the NFL rushing title and broke a few team and league records along the way, the wisdom says he is expected to draw offers as a free agent that Dallas would not be willing to match. The team has the ability to find a way to pay whatever would be required, but it would require pushing too much cap money down the road. This would probably have to involve restructuring Tony Romo's contract, something that the team has good reason to avoid if possible.
None of that has really changed, but since the end of the season, it certainly appears that there is a campaign going on to try and convince the team that it should try to find a way to keep Murray on the roster. Two people who look to be involved in this are head coach Jason Garrett and Tony Romo, who were seen attending a college basketball game with Murray.
The head coach and starting quarterback obviously have a tremendous amount of influence inside Valley Ranch, and appearing with Murray where they would be seen, photographed, and covered by the media certainly gives every indication of being a deliberate move to sway an opinion or two.
But the person who is leading this move is Murray himself. During a personal appearance in the Dallas area, he continued his recent trend of remarks that offer some very strong hints that he is willing to be flexible in negotiations over his salary.
"Obviously I think they want me here," Murray said Tuesday night at a promotional event. "I want to be here. It's just finding the ... just what helps them, what helps me. Things like that. I think both sides want to be here, so I think we'll see where it goes."
Murray reiterated what he said at the Pro Bowl: His final decision will not be solely about money.
"It's about winning a Super Bowl," Murray said. "If this place gives me the best chance, I'm going to stay here."
While this does not mean that the dollars are unimportant, it is not the typical way a player who is angling for a maximum contract would talk. It all but says that at least some kind of hometown discount is very possible.
It just is very unusual, at least to me. This sounds very much like a player who is actively courting his former team to keep him so he can be part of a drive to win it all. And there are certainly some persuasive arguments that Dallas is the place that gives him that best chance. The team has invested heavily in building a championship quality offensive line, seeing those investments pay off handsomely with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin all getting All Pro recognition after opening the holes that Murray ran through. Romo and the passing attack, with a receiving corps anchored by Dez Bryant, who is going to get paid quite well himself, mean that opposing teams cannot focus overly on stopping the run. Although there are still many questions that have to be answered on defense, the job Rod Marinelli did last season combined with the track record the personnel guys have established are good signs that things will continue to improve there.
It is hard to imagine that those personnel guys are not paying attention to what Murray is saying, assuming that he is not having his agent deliver an entirely different message. Jerry Jones has always had respect for loyalty and never feels bad about rewarding his players when he can.
There is still the history of running backs whose performance dips badly after such a dominant season. Still, if ever a player had a chance to come up with a successful follow-on season or three, it would be Murray behind that line. If he is willing to take a contract that offers the team some insurance in case he doesn't deliver what they need, with front loaded money and guarantees, then it should be possible for the two sides to work out something.
A month ago, this did not seem at all in the realm of possibility, but Murray has been consistently sending out signals that he wants to find a way to keep wearing the Star. With Garrett and Romo the most visible of those in his corner, and certainly not the only ones, that is not the case anymore. There are still a lot of obstacles. But the departure of Murray is no longer the inevitability most of us once thought.