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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: (Late) Praise For Cowboys Free Agency Approach

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Revisiting DeMarco Murray's departure; reviewing Cowboys free agency approach; More free agent signings.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

How Dez negotiations, Sam Bradford and Frank Gore led to DeMarco Murray's exit | David Moore, Dallas Morning News
Moore takes a look at how some of the dominoes fell into place to make Murray leave for the Eagles.

The issue for Cowboys management was always what Murray’s return on investment would be at the end of a multiyear contract, not the start. It always made more sense from a cap management standpoint to reach a long-term deal with Bryant and ride Murray for another season with the tag.

But when repeated attempts to sign Bryant fell through, when the Pro Bowl receiver changed agents, the prudent option was to secure him with a franchise tag of $12.8 million. That allowed Murray to hit the free-agent market.

Hard choice on Murray, but heeding red flags could lead to banner days for Cowboys | Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News
Three red flags weighed in on the decision not to re-sign Murray, Gosselin writes: Murray's injury history, his 2014 workload, and the fear of declining performance.

Ronald Leary, J.J. Wilcox lead Dallas Cowboys in performance-based pay - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Each NFL team was given $3.633 million to divide among its players as part of the NFL's performance-based pay system (which does not count against the salary cap). Playing time and base salary level determine how much each player gets, and this year Ronald Leary and J.J. Wilcox lead the team.

We wrote earlier this month on BTB to "Look for Wilcox and Leary to lead the team in performance-based pay when it's announced later this month, a well-deserved pay bump. Anthony Hitchens,Terrance Williams and Sterling Moore shouldn't be too far behind." And that's exactly what happened.

Cowboys’ Brinkley Signing Doesn’t Affect McClain Desire - Mike Fisher, CBSDFW
The Cowboys still want to re-sign Rolando McClain despite signing Jasper Brinkley, Fisher writes.

Free-Agent Tracker: Updated Full List of Cowboys’ Players Coming, Going & Staying | Dallas Cowboys
If your head is spinning from all the free agency moves, this provides a handy overview of who went where for how much.

Base value of Darren McFadden's Dallas Cowboys deal is $3 million - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
The always reliable Archer explains that the base value of Darren McFadden's contract is $3 million over two years.

If he fails to rush for 1,000 yards in either season, the base value of the contract is $3 million.

McFadden received a $200,000 signing bonus and will receive a $900,000 base salary in 2015 for a $1.15 million cap figure. He earns $9,375 for every game he is on the 46-man roster. In 2016, he will earn a base salary of $1.25 million and has per-game roster bonuses that can earn him an extra $500,000. If he does not play in eight games in 2015, then the max he could earn on those per-game bonuses in 2016 is $250,000.

Dallas Cowboys' discipline will affect Dez Bryant too - Todd Archer - ESPN Dallas
Archer sets the record straight on what's going on in Dallas:

While the Murray departure has brought national attention to the Cowboys’ "new" way of doing business, this is actually how they have operated the past few years. The last time they made a big play in free agency came in 2012 when they signed Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal. That hasn’t worked out.

NFL secrets revealed during Super Bowl XLV seating trial | Dallas Morning News
Much of what the NFL does is completely arbitrary in nature. Previously that was most evident in the way the NFL handles discipline, and in the way it implements and interprets rules. It apparently even extends to the way attendance is reported at games:

The communications, at least the ones introduced in trial, showed the NFL was looking for ways to come up with attendance figures of 104,000 to 108,000. The unofficial record was 103,985 set more than three decades earlier at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

League officials discussed counting fans in a plaza outside of the stadium as well as workers, media and others with credentials. They also planned to count the halftime crews, who were inside the building for only a short period.

I believe this is symptomatic for Roger Goodell's NFL, where the absence of leadership, principles and a moral compass have led to a situation where decisions are based almost exclusively on either the bottom line impact or the PR effect. Which is why every time Goodell says that "My No. 1 job is protecting the integrity of the game," I get violently sick.

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On to a bunch of articles that are just now catching up to what we've been saying at BTB for the last few years. And as nice as reading these headlines may be, keep in mind that they are addressing a meme that has been untrue for several years now, as our estimable rabblerousr pointed out:

This just shows you 1) how little attention people are paying and 2) how reluctant they are to let go of a comforting, convenient narrative

Cowboys are finally getting wise with personnel moves - Foxsports
Foxsports' Alex Marvez writes that while Dallas fans might be depressed over losing DeMarco Murray, they should take heart because the team is making the tough decisions that successful teams must do.

Much of this change is credited to Cowboys executive Stephen Jones. While still the franchise's front man, Jerry Jones has reportedly demurred to his son on a number of personnel decisions. The ascension of assistant personnel director Will McClay has helped rectify previous draft mistakes. There is now a conscious effort to avoid the short-sighted handling of the salary cap -- including the regular restructuring of quarterback Tony Romo's contract for immediate relief -- that helped trigger the 2014 offseason release of all-time Cowboys sack leader DeMarcus Ware.

Such improvements don't guarantee the Cowboys will become a mistake-free franchise. There is no such thing.

Letting DeMarco Murray walk signals that someone other than Jerry Jones is calling shots for Cowboys - Yahoo Sports
Charles Robinson argues that the Cowboys' recent streak of fiscal responsibility has Stephen Jones' fingerprints all over it.

It's undeniable that Jones will always be the rock-star front man for the Cowboys. But this streak of fiscal responsibility has some fingerprints on it, and those who know the Cowboys say those identifying marks belong largely to Jones' son Stephen. Outside of Dallas and NFL circles, not a lot is known about the man, other than he's the offspring of arguably the league's wildest owner, and carries a business card that lists a one-man corporation: "Stephen Jones: Dallas Cowboys Chief Operating Officer/Executive Vice President/Director of Player Personnel."

So here's what NFL sources are saying right now about Stephen Jones: He's doing a disciplined job of running a franchise that had become known for shooting from the hip fast and often, consequences be damned. Asked his opinion of what Stephen Jones is doing with the team, one NFL source lavished praise. "What he's doing – I don't know how else to say it, other than it's really smart," the source said. "Stephen has restraint. He can be someone who is very cheap and deliberately slow."

Call it what you want: consensus building, penny-pinching, slow-playing. Maybe Stephen Jones is all of these things. But one thing he isn't is an ATM for sentimental player withdrawals. That guy is the one tied to the chair and shoved into the closet. And the key to the bank vault is being turned by somebody new.

Why Darren McFadden makes sense for the Cowboys - CBSSports.com
Ryan Wilson also appears to have been asleep at the wheel for the last few years:

We can't believe we're about to say this, but the Cowboys did exactly the right thing by letting DeMarco Murray walk and signing Darren McFadden as a cheap replacement.

Whether Jerry Jones has evolved as a general manager (seems unlikely given that he was this close to drafting Johnny Manziel last year) or the praise should be reserved for Stephen Jones (an eminently more likely scenario), the bottom line remains: The Cowboys were smart to save their money.

Murray departure a sign Stephen Jones running things in Dallas | ProFootballTalk
Even PFT, which has yet to find a bandwagon it can't jump on, belatedly celebrates its own phenomenal insight into what's going on in Dallas, but not without the customary Jerry-bashing:

Stephen’s title is vice president of player personnel, and it’s becoming increasingly clear he’s calling most of the shots at Valley Ranch.

But while the elder Jones is still as big of a star in Dallas as anyone, his son has gradually moved into the lead, which might be the best thing that happened for the entire family or team.

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Interestingly, while the pendulum seems to be swinging into the green for the Cowboys, it's beginning to swing into the red for Chip Kelly's clown ensemble.

There's 21 million reasons Chip Kelly's free-agency experiment isn't genius - CBSSports.com
Jason La Canfora counsels not to be surprised if Kelly bolts if this thing goes haywire.

Consider me among the many to champion Kelly's I-don't-give-a-bleep spirit and iconoclastic ideals in a sport where groupthink and the 'ol boys network generally runs amok.

The problem is whom he is relying on to fill the [running back] gap, and the new contracts that the coach/czar of anything football related in Philadelphia has just doled out. The ante has been raised considerably, and Kelly's wagers have gone from calculated bets to what now may be a reactionary, hope-and-prayer collection of injury-prone assets.

Now, should Murray prove to be what he has been--– a very talented but injury-prone runner who was playing behind an exceptional offensive line in 2014 -- Kelly is on the hook for an untradeable deal that will cost the team for years to come (not that it will matter much should the coach, oh, I don't know, jump back to the college ranks whenever the hell he sees fit).

The Chip Kelly Gamble - Grantland
Bill Barnwell critiques the Eagles free agency moves:

Here’s the simplest way I can put this: Pretend, for a moment, that the Raiders or the Jaguars or the Browns made this exact same pair of moves. They would be the laughingstocks of the league, fools making the same stupid mistakes that bad franchises always make. The Eagles understandably aren’t being painted with that brush because Kelly has earned a certain level of credibility as a forward-thinking coach. With the moves Kelly has made this offseason, that credibility is on the line.

Kelly may very well make these signings work, but the Murray deal is a classic example of what bad teams do in free agency. Two years from now, we may very well look back at the past 72 hours in Eagles history as the moment when Kelly sealed his status as the next Bill Belichick. We also may look back at it as the time when Kelly sealed his fate.

Roundtable: Chip Kelly Is A Madman And Must Be Stopped (Or He’s A Mad Genius) | FiveThirtyEight
Three FiveThirtyEight writers try to figure out what's going on in Philly. Three excerpts:

Ben: I like to imagine that Chip Kelly and Les Snead were just chillin’ and Kelly was like, "Dude, crazy hypothetical that just popped into my head: What would happen if we just right out and switched quarterbacks? I mean, neither of us is in love with who we have, and people always say that kind of thing: ‘What would happen if you put Brady on the Broncos and Manning on the Patriots?’ Honestly, I have no idea what would happen, but could you imagine?" And then after a lengthy chortle, a tiny uncomfortable silence took over before they nearly simultaneous grinned and went, "[expletive] it."

Walt: The only thing less trustworthy than an Eagles fan is an Eagles coach.

Neil: As our colleague (and Philly sports aficionado) Jody Avirgan tweeted, being an Eagles fan is suddenly a bit like working a low-level job on the Manhattan Project: You have no idea what the master plan is — or if one even exists — but you have to trust that the smart guys at the top know what they’re doing.

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Some of the new guys took to Twitter after they signed in Dallas