There were a lot of things that went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. Most of the focus is on the devastating injuries that took out so many of the stars as well as some key role players, but the problems actually started early in the offseason. The first real glitch came when the Philadelphia Eagles swooped in and bid the price for DeMarco Murray beyond what the Dallas staff had set as a ceiling for his services. It was a head-scratching move, as the 2014 rushing champion seemed a poor fit for Chip Kelly's awe-inspiring (at least to those who bought his song and dance) offensive scheme. That turned out to be brutally accurate, with everyone involved in Philadelphia winding up sadly disappointed in the return on the $40 million contract lavished on him. Now, despite the departure of Kelly's genius, reports have it that his future in the City of Brotherly Love is still very much in question. Does that open the door for a return to run behind the formidable Cowboys offensive line?
The source of all this is a report from Ian Rapoport, NFL.com's media insider (their label, not mine). Although it has been proposed that the changes in Philadelphia now that Kelly's Music Man act has left should help him, Rapoport states that it ain't necessarily so.
Remnants of the old regime have headed out the door, including Kelly and VP of player personnel Ed Marynowitz. Yet Murray, the poster child for the failed efforts during the 2015 offseason remains with four years left on his five-year, $40-milion deal that includes $9 million more guaranteed. A pre-June 1 cut would hand the Eagles a $13-million salary-cap charge -- a reality the Eagles don't seem willing to embrace at this point.
Based on his information, Rapoport believes that the Eagles would very much like to trade Murray, and he lists three teams that might be landing spots for him: The Seattle Seahawks, the Oakland Raiders, and, of course, Dallas. While the Cowboys are always linked to every big name that comes onto the market in the NFL via trade or free agency, it actually makes some sense, And there is the interesting note that Murray is building a new house in the Dallas area.
But could the Cowboys get Murray for a reasonable cost? What would the Eagles demand in a trade? And how much of Murray's current contract would they be prepared to eat?
At the moment, the Eagles are pretty flush with cap space, currently estimated to be at $24 million before they do any reworking of other contracts. However, Kelly did a marvelous job of leaving a real mess of a roster behind, so they may need as much space as they can get to try and rework things. Still, if they decide they really need to move on from Murray, they can afford to do so. The Cowboys were reported to be willing to sign Murray for about $6 million a year. If the Eagles were to agree to eat the remaining $9 million in guaranteed money, then the Cowboys could probably get him for something close to that amount with a reasonable guarantee on their part.
The sticking point would likely be what kind of draft pick or picks the Eagles would want for Murray. Would this year's fourth-round pick from Dallas be reasonable? The Cowboys expect to get a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round that is not yet tradeable, so they might be willing to part with their regular pick, even though it is near the beginning of the round. Would that be enough? Or would the Eagles be willing to talk 2017 picks?
And how interested are the Seahawks and Raiders? Both have tons of cap space, especially Oakland, and might be willing to bid the price up too high for the Cowboys.
That still leaves the question of how effective Murray still can be in a system that fits his talents. However, if the Cowboys were willing to sign him to a four-year deal at their price a year ago, then it can be assumed they still would see him as having some tread left if he were back in the Dallas backfield.
A much less likely scenario is that the Eagles might fail to get an acceptable offer and just decide to part ways with Murray. The Cowboys might choose to forego trading for him and wait and see, but that is not only a long shot, it still has the question of who might offer him a better deal. But having gone for the money once, and having already cashed in to the tune of $21 million even if the Eagles release him, Murray may lean toward returning to the team where he set records.
As it seems with everything at the moment, there are a ton of moving parts involved. But the idea of something on the order of a $20 to $24 million contract for four years and a $8 to $10 million guarantee to bring Murray back to Dallas might just be reasonable, especially now that he has had a year where he did not put nearly as many miles on his body as he did in his 2014 season. The deal could also be structured to make sure the Cowboys could get out after a couple of years without incurring too much dead money, so they would not have to worry about using him up too quickly.
And those might be very extravagant numbers. With the money already owed him by Philly, Murray may be a lot cheaper. The idea of proving he was not just a one-year wonder may be as important to him as anything, and lead to a pretty serious discount over what he was to be paid by the Eagles.
It is an intriguing idea, and one that actually is rooted in more than just the idea that the Cowboys are interested in all the big names out there. All we can do is speculate and wonder. What do you think? At least one name of note has already cast his vote.
Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) February 4, 2016