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Cowboys Making Good Use, Or Poor Decisions, With DeMarco Murray Money?

Jerry Jones says the money saved by not re-signing DeMarco Murray is showing up elsewhere. Is the front office using it wisely?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Back during free agency, the Dallas Cowboys were faced with signing Dez Bryant, signing DeMarco Murray, signing both or signing neither. There was much discussion about which player to try and sign and which player to franchise to fit under the cap. As it turned out, the Cowboys actually created more than enough room to sign both if they had chosen to do so, and they could still have signed Greg Hardy.

The Cowboys stood firm on what they were going to pay each individual, and in the case of DeMarco Murray, that wasn't as much as the Eagles chose to pay him. So he ended up with the Cowboys hated rival, and the money that would have gone to him is now making its way to other players. This had brought up a couple of storylines. One is to wonder if the Cowboys are allowing player demands to set a bad precedent. From the DMN:

Orlando Scandrick skips organized team activities and gets a new contract.

Brandon Carr says he won't take a pay cut and reports to camp with his salary intact.

Jeremy Mincey ends a brief holdout when the Cowboys sweeten his salary by $500,000.

Are the Cowboys setting a potentially dangerous precedent that will encourage more players to adopt this strategy in future negotiations, or is the club responsibly handling these situations to minimize distractions? In the interest making sure everyone is all in on this season, is it worth it?

This is valid to a degree, but I think it misses the context. One, the reason the Cowboys can afford to pay these slight upgrades is because they were financially sound with resisting paying Murray too much in the first place. Secondly, I don't think anybody could argue that Scandrick and Mincey weren't underpaid based on performance, especially Scandrick. And in Mincey's case, Dallas was essentially just giving him an incentive bonus that he missed out on from last season by less than 1% based on snap counts. If these are the kinds of holdouts the Cowboys will have to deal with in the future, they should be fine with some negotiating. Rewarding guys who have gone past expectations is not a poor policy, and at these levels it's not going to kill the salary cap. But at levels like Murray's, or what might have happened with Dez if a contact had not been signed, that's when you would need to worry about the team constantly folding in the face of contract demands.

This first storyline also ties into the second. Dallas may not have valued Murray's running back position as much as other teams, but the idea of a player giving his all for his team, including playing with a broken hand, only to be let go, could cause some issues in the locker room. Especially if that player was a popular one like Murray. By making good with some players who deserved it, and by not hitting up Carr with a pay-cut demand, the Cowboys front office has gone a long way towards soothing any hurt feelings in the locker room.

If Murray could do all that, expend that kind of energy and still not gain the reward of a big contract from the Cowboys, what would it mean for players of lesser importance?

But since the Murray decision, the Cowboys have extended themselves in different ways. Orlando Scandrick did not show up for the start of the offseason program because he wanted a new deal. Jeremy Mincey missed the first four days of training camp because he wanted a new deal.

The Cowboys found common ground with Scandrick on a one-year extension and will increase his 2015 pay from $1.5 million to $4 million. The team bumped Mincey's base salary from $1.5 million to $2 million in part because he finished less than 1 percent away from earning an escalator last year, but they did not extend his contract.

The Cowboys never really got into serious pay-cut talks with the agent for Brandon Carr. They are comfortable with him counting $12.7 million against the cap in 2015.

The Cowboys front office has negotiated some tricky land mines this offseason - the Murray decision, the Bryant negotiations, the Hardy signing, dealing with a few of its own veteran players. They have done a masterful job so far, as long as one thing goes their way. They're praying that the Joseph Randle/Darren McFadden/Lance Dunbar triumvirate (plus a possible veteran signing) can approximate the impact of Murray last year. Without that, all the rest could be for naught.

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