With two of the Cowboys’ most notable offensive players eligible for unrestricted free agency this winter, wide receiver Dez Bryant seems unlikely to go anywhere, but the same can’t be said of running back DeMarco Murray. Dallas can only use its franchise or transition designation on one player, and Bryant looks like a lock to be tagged, which means Murray would have to negotiate a new contract with the club. And so far, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the two sides aren’t anywhere close.
As Chris Wesseling of NFL.com writes, Rapoport suggests that at last check, the Cowboys had a four-year offer on the table to Murray worth about $16MM, or $4MM annually. That stacks up well when compared to the top contracts for free agent running backs from a year ago, but it pales in comparison to the $7MM+ annual salaries that the league’s highest-paid backs are earning. And considering Murray is coming off a season in which his 1,845 rushing yards placed him first in the NFL by nearly a 500-yard margin, it makes sense that he’d be seeking more than $4MM per year.
Of course, over the last several seasons, the value of the running back position has been on the decline, and the reported Cowboys’ offer reflects not only that decreasing value, but also some wariness about Murray’s 2014 workload — after racking up 449 touches in the regular season, the 26-year-old had 48 more in two postseason games, for a total of 497. That will be a red flag for any potential suitor.
Still, as Wesseling notes, Murray should be able to do better than a $4MM annual salary on the open market, so unless the Cowboys “pry the coffers wide open,” the Oklahoma product will likely test free agency in March. Even in an era when running backs aren’t valued highly, plenty of teams – including perhaps the Raiders, Falcons, Colts, and Buccaneers, among others – should be looking to improve their ground games, and could kick the tires on Murray.