Although the Cowboys find themselves in the thick of a playoff race, the future of Dallas’ impending free agents has received a great deal of attention over the past several weeks. Here at PFR, we have examined Dez Bryant as an extension candidate, and we have looked at how the respective fates of Bryant and DeMarco Murray appear to be intertwined. Speaking about the club’s unrestricted free agent class as a whole–which includes Bryant, Murray, Doug Free, Rolando McClain, Justin Durant, Nick Hayden, George Selvie and Bruce Carter—Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes that Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones has expressed his hope that at least some of those players will accept less money to be part of a potentially bright future in Dallas. Jones said:
“If we’re digging in, what we’re really trying to do is maybe not give everybody what they should deserve, whether it’s Tony Romo, whether it’s Doug Free, whether it’s Dez Bryant, whether it’s DeMarco Murray, because if we want to have the type of team we want to have, everybody has to compromise. It’s our job to try to get people to understand that it can be better for them to maybe take a little bit less and win, and that can pay off for them in the long haul.”
Although the franchise tag for a wide receiver is higher than that of a running back, if the Cowboys are to slap the tag on either Bryant or Murray, it appears more likely that Bryant will be tagged and Murray will get the long-term deal (if Dallas ultimately retains both players, of course). NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reiterated as much via Twitter this morning, and former agent Joel Corry tweeted that the $11MM tag for Murray would be a windfall for him relative to the running back market.
In response to a reader who asked if the tag was more likely for Bryant than Murray because the team believes it has a better chance of reaching an extension with Murray, Rapoport tweeted that that is not the case. Instead, it simply comes down to the value of the tag for both positions and the fact that the franchise tag enures the Cowboys can hold on to Bryant for at least one more season. Corry, meanwhile, tweets that if Dallas does indeed hit Bryant with the tag, he would like to see Bryant stay away from the team until he gets a prohibition clause and the July 2015 deadline for giving a long-term deal to a franchised player passes (a prohibition clause would disallow the Cowboys from tagging Bryant again after the 2015 season and would therefore greatly increase his negotiating leverage).
Bryant had this to say on the matter:
“At the end of the day, I want to win. But at the same time, I have a family and that’s what is important. I feel like, hey, I put the work in, I got to get myself some kind of credit.”
Murray was not quoted in the Machota piece, but at this point it seems as though a tag for Bryant and a long-term deal for Murray is the most likely scenario. Whether or not either player, or any of the other Cowboys’ free agents, ultimately accepts less money to play for a winning ball club may well depend on if Dallas can avoid another winter swoon and capitalize on the promise of the 2014 season.