DeMarco Murray

Poll: Which UFA RB Should Redskins Target?

Washington’s backfield corps absorbed a major blow Friday when news of Derrius Guice‘s ACL tear surfaced. The second-round pick had impressed during camp and was set to be a key part of the Redskins’ 2018 backfield.

Now, the Redskins are vulnerable here. Chris Thompson admitted he’s not fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered last season, leaving Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine as the team’s top two healthy running backs. Under the circumstances, it would seemingly behoove the Redskins to examine free agent options. Should they?

Washington holds $13MM-plus in cap space, so funding won’t be an issue here given the timing of this injury and the host of proven backs on the market. Of the players available, Orleans Darkwa has generated the most interest this offseason. The Giants’ 2017 rushing leader met with the Patriots in April, before undergoing surgery, and since recovering has met with the Bills, Jets and Colts. Each team passed, but Darkwa has just 276 carries on his NFL odometer. And he averaged 4.4 yards per tote despite running behind an injury-ravaged Giants offensive front.

Alfred Morris led the Redskins in rushing for four straight seasons, and he averaged 4.8 yards per handoff last season as the Cowboys’ primary starter during Ezekiel Elliott‘s suspension. The former sixth-round Washington find is 29 and hasn’t generated much interest since his Cowboys contract expired, although he did visit the Jets recently.

Eddie Lacy‘s also fairly young, at 28, but he’s coming off a brutal Seahawks season. After providing per-carry averages north of 4.0 in each of his four Packers seasons, Lacy averaged just 2.6 yards per run for the Seahawks. Branden Oliver has not been as successful on a per-rush basis, holding a career average of 3.4, but he totaled 853 yards from scrimmage as a seven-game starter as a rookie in 2014. Oliver also drew interest from the Bills this summer.

What about the market’s old guard? Adrian Peterson is obviously the first name that comes to mind, and the future Hall of Famer maintains he would like to play a 12th season. Peterson said he’s now healthy and has recovered from the neck injury that ended his 2017 season. While the three-time rushing champion’s best days are behind him, he amassed two 130-plus-yard games with the Cardinals, doing so despite being a midseason acquisition.

Jamaal Charles, 31, made it through last season healthy after extensive knee trouble plagued him in 2015 and 2016, but the Broncos took him out of their rotation. Nevertheless, the two-time All-Pro led Denver backs by averaging 4.3 yards per carry (albeit on just 69 handoffs). DeMarco Murray retired, but he made it clear shortly before that announcement he was interested in playing this season. Could this situation lure the 2014 offensive player of the year out of retirement?

However, the Redskins also have former Broncos backup Kapri Bibbs and third-year UDFA Byron Marshall. Should they bypass the market and go with a cast fronted by Kelley and Perine?

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Murray, Patriots, Bielema, Buccaneers, Bridgewater

DeMarco Murray only retired yesterday, but speculation is already swirling about a potential comeback. Since Murray apparently had opportunities to continue playing, and only chose not to because he was unsatisfied with the offers, it would seem he could pretty easily reverse his decision and decide to continue playing. Murray is 30 years old, but probably has enough left in the tank to help a team as a situational runner and veteran mentor in the locker room.

Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders is one reporter who’s not buying that Murray is really done. Cummings says he is “skeptical” that Murray really plans on retiring, and so he took a look at a couple of teams that could be a good match. He mentions that the Dolphins kicked the tires on Murray earlier this offseason before ultimately signing Frank Gore. Gore’s presence would probably make a Murray signing unnecessary Cummings writes, but that could change with an injury. Cummings thinks another Florida team, the Jaguars, could be a better match. The Jaguars lost their veteran backup, Chris Ivory, in free agency, and now have a very young running back group being led by Leonard Fournette. The Jaguars could use a veteran presence and Murray would get to play for a championship contender. It could be a good match if Murray ultimately does change his mind.

  • Bret Bielema recently made the jump from the college coaching ranks to the NFL, and so far he is loving the move. Bielema, who spent the past 20-plus years coaching college teams, was recently hired by the Patriots as an assistant after he was fired as Arkansas’ head coach. Per ProFootballTalk, Bielema said he loves how the NFL is “purely football” and not any of the other stuff that’s a requirement of college athletics. Bielema says coaches don’t “ever go back” once they make the leap to the NFL, and it doesn’t sound like he will either.
  • The Buccaneers trading for Teddy Bridgewater at some point makes sense, writes Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). Stroud notes that unless Ryan Griffin develops into something worth keeping, the Bucs could potentially have no backup quarterbacks in 2019, and possibly no quarterbacks under contract at all if the team cuts ties with Jameis Winston. The Jets will likely make Bridgewater available in a trade if he shows he’s healthy this preseason, and the Bucs could be a darkhorse candidate to land him.
  • In case you missed it, check out some of the reactions from around the league to Murray’s retirement.

Reactions To DeMarco Murray’s Retirement

Running back DeMarco Murray announced his retirement earlier today, ending a seven-year career during which he earned three Pro-Bowl nods, a First-Team All-Pro selection, and the league’s 2014 Offensive Player of the Year award. Murray was taken in the third round by the Cowboys back in 2011 out of Oklahoma, and quickly became a star in Dallas. He had a one year stop in Philadelphia before spending the last two years of his career with the Titans.

After Murray made the announcement on an ESPN broadcast of ‘NFL Live’, reactions quickly began trickling in. Many were quick to point out that this wasn’t a forced retirement from Murray, and that he had options to continue playing. Here are some of the responses from around the league:

  • Former NFL agent and current CBS analyst Joel Corry pointed out that when a player expresses a recent desire to continue playing, like Murray did, and then suddenly retires, that “it usually means he didn’t like the type of money he was being offered” (Twitter link). It looks like Murray may have thought signing a minimum salary or low-guarantee deal simply wasn’t worth it.
  • There were a “bunch of teams” interested in Murray’s services, according to Sirius XM NFL insider Adam Caplan (Twitter link). Caplan says his understanding was that Murray was “not retiring due to lack of interest” and that the veteran “would have had at least a backup role this season.” It seems like Murray would’ve only wanted to continue playing in a place where he had a clear path to playing time.
  • Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com took a look back at Murray’s career from a Titans perspective and examined his contributions to the team over the past two seasons. Wyatt notes that Murray “helped change the culture in the locker room” in Tennessee and that he “held teammates accountable” as part of his leadership role.

DeMarco Murray To Retire From NFL

DeMarco Murray has played his last down in the NFL. Today, Murray will announce his retirement from football, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). 

Murray, 30, was looking for work this offseason and met with several teams to try and find the right opportunity. Earlier this week, Murray reaffirmed his desire to continue playing. But, for one reason or another, the veteran has decided to call it quits.

I’ve had a lot of discussions with four or five teams that I feel will be a great fit for me,” Murray said in an ESPN podcast released on Monday. “It’s all about being transparent and, for me, I’m not looking to lead the league in rushing yards. Obviously I would work and do everything to give me the opportunity to do that, but it’s all about having an opportunity to get to the playoffs and have an opportunity to win a championship.”

Perhaps realizing the limitations of what he can do at this stage of his career, Murray will move on from football in order to pursue other interested. Although he led the league with 1,845 rushing yards in 2014 with the Cowboys and nearly cracked 1,300 in 2016 with the Titans, he was largely overshadowed in Tennessee by Derrick Henry last year.

The Titans released Murray in March and subsequent meetings with the LionsSeahawks, and Dolphins did not yield a contract. In June, the 30-year-old declined an opportunity to work out for the Saints. The timing of Murray’s decision is a curious one. Training camp often leads to injuries, which would have meant more opportunities for Murray. There’s also the ongoing situation in Buffalo that could leave the Bills without star LeSean McCoy to star the season.

Murray will be best remembered for his brilliant performances with the Cowboys, which included his first 1,000-yard season in 2013 and his unbelievably productive campaign in 2014 in which he totaled 2,261 all-purpose yards. Murray’s free agent deal with the Eagles was a dud, but he did enjoy a bounce-back season with the Titans in ’16.

When he was at his best, Murray was one of the league’s most electrifying rushers and he leaves the game with an impressive body of work. We here at PFR wish Murray the best in retirement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

DeMarco Murray Hopes To Sign Soon

DeMarco Murray is without a job at the moment, but he’s hoping that will change soon. In a lengthy interview with ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (audio link), Murray reaffirmed his desire to play in 2018 and said that he has had a handful of fruitful conversations with clubs. 

[POLL: Who Is The Best Free Agent RB Remaining?]

I’ve had a lot of discussions with four or five teams that I feel will be a great fit for me,” Murray said. “It’s all about being transparent and, for me, I’m not looking to lead the league in rushing yards. Obviously I would work and do everything to give me the opportunity to do that, but it’s all about having an opportunity to get to the playoffs and have an opportunity to win a championship.”

It sounds like Murray has accepted the limitations of what he can do at this stage of his career. Although he led the league with 1,845 rushing yards in 2014 with the Cowboys and nearly cracked 1,300 in 2016 with the Titans, it appears that he is willing to enter the year as a team’s No. 2 running back. That’s good news because, barring an injury, no team at this stage of the offseason would realistically consider Murray as a starter.

Last year, Murray was overshadowed in Tennessee by Derrick Henry. He totaled just 659 yards rushing and averaged 3.6 yards per carry. On the plus side, he also had 39 catches out of the backfield for 266 yards.

The Titans released Murray in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the LionsSeahawks, and Dolphins since his release. In June, the 30-year-old declined an opportunity to work out for the Saints. That same week, the Saints signed former Ravens running back Terrance West.

According to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus, Murray graded out as the league’s No. 40 ranked running back in 2017.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Best Free Agent RB Remaining?

Even as June winds down, there are a surprising number of quality running backs still available on the open market. The current free agent crop of backfield options includes some notable names, such as: 

Charles, Hightower, Vereen, and Murray were all on the Saints’ radar recently as they canvassed the free agent market for running back support. Ultimately, they signed Terrance West to help fill in during Mark Ingram‘s four-game suspension, leaving the other vets in limbo. While Charles, Hightower, and Vereen all showed their stuff for coach Sean Payton, Murray declined his invite, preferring not to participate in a giant cattle call.

When considering only past accomplishments, the names of Peterson, Charles, and Murray obviously stand out. But, unfortunately, father time is cruel to NFL running backs and these players are on the back nines of their careers, to put it mildly. Out of this trio, Murray has the best 2017 to show teams. Even though his job as the Titans’ top rusher was usurped by Derrick Henry, he had 39 catches for 266 yards and occasionally showed the powerful rushing that made him a force to be reckoned with in Dallas. Charles, he of several 1,000-yard seasons, had only 296 rushing yards in total and found himself at the bottom of Denver’s depth chart to close out the season. Peterson, meanwhile, forced his way out of New Orleans due to a lack of playing time and had only two performances of note in his run with the Cardinals.

Lacy signed with the Seahawks last year and hoped to put concerns about his health and conditioning to rest. Unfortunately, those questions persist after he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry in nine games. Lacy was a bulldozer in his early days with the Packers, but his last season of note came in 2015 when he averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Even then, ball security was a problem as he fumbled the ball four times.

Darkwa is back on the NFL radar after doctors cleared him to workout. Darkwa won’t win this poll on name value, but unlike everyone else on this list, he’s coming off of the best season of his career.The 26-year-old (did we mention that he’s also the youngest running back here?) ran for 751 yards off of 171 carries, good for a strong 4.4 yards per carry average. It was an ugly year for the Giants on the whole, but Darkwa excelled on a personal level.

Vereen, another ex-Giant, can’t say the same for his 2017 season. However, his second act with the Giants has been respectable on the whole. Acting as a secondary ball carrier, he has averaged 4.2 yards per carry over the last three seasons. He also showed that he can still be a worthwhile pass catcher out of the backfield with 44 grabs for 253 yards last season, though he averaged a career-low 5.8 yards per catch.

Last but not least is Morris, though you can be forgiven for forgetting about this three-time 1,000-yard rusher. Morris was a force to be reckoned with from 2012-2014, but he has been riding the pine for the Cowboys over the last two years. What you might not realize is that Morris was tremendous in a small sample last year as Ezekiel Elliott‘s early-season backup and later-season fill-in. Morris averaged 4.76 yards per carry off of 115 attempts, which makes one wonder why we haven’t heard his name mentioned in recent months.

Out of the running backs listed here, which player do you feel can contribute the most in 2018? Click below to cast your vote and defend your choice in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

There are still plenty of impact free agents left on the board, including some big names. Here’s a look at some of the high-profile veterans that are still looking for work in advance of training camp: 

Kaepernick probably stands as the most talented quarterback left on the open market, but his ongoing collusion case against the NFL complicated matters. It seems unlikely that he’ll land anywhere between now and the start of the season, but friend and former teammate Eric Reid probably has a better chance of signing somewhere, despite being in a similar boat. Recently, the duo was spotted working out together in California.

It seems like just yesterday that Murray was the league’s most fearsome running back. Unfortunately, Murray’s age has caught up to him to some extent and he was overshadowed last year in Tennessee by the younger Derrick HenryThe Titans dropped Murray in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the LionsSeahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Recently, the Saints tried to include Murray in their cattle call for running backs, but he declined the invite.

Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. It’s possible that Murray and Peterson won’t sign unless a running back injury opens up an opportunity for them. Teams could also steer clear of Peterson altogether given his desire for a starring role despite his lack of star performance over the last two years.

Bryant is the biggest name on this list, but we shouldn’t expect to see him sign anywhere until July. There have been conflicting reports on his market, but the latest word indicates that he is receiving interest, despite concerns about his demeanor in the locker room.

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DeMarco Murray Declines Saints Workout

The Saints reached out to running DeMarco Murray to bring him to New Orleans for a Wednesday workout, but he declined, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Apparently, Murray did not want to work out as a part of a large group of running backs. 

Schefter hears that Murray is still very much intent on playing and believes that he can be a significant contributor in 2018, but he is also waiting for the right opportunity. The right opportunity, apparently, was not an audition with the Saints on the same week as Tim Hightower, Jamaal Charles, and Terrance West.

The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the LionsSeahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Murray, 30, is coming off of a down season in which he amassed just 659 yards and averaged 3.6 yards per carry. On a per-tote basis, it matched the career low he set in his lone season with the Eagles. He did have 39 catches for 266 yards, however, and may be capable of getting back to his old form with a new team. Murray ultimately graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 40 running back in the league.

The Saints, who will be without Mark Ingram for the first four games of the season, are exploring veteran additions to support top rusher Alvin Kamara.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

The Best Remaining NFL Free Agents

The biggest names in this year’s free agent class such as Kirk Cousins, Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, and Trumaine Johnson have long been spoken for, but plenty of notable players remain on the board here in June. With a hat tip to James Palmer of NFL.com (on Twitter), here’s a look at some high-profile veterans who are still seeking work this summer: 

Of course, Kaepernick’s situation is more complicated than the rest. Lately, the only updates we’ve heard regarding Kaepernick have been tied to his pending collusion case against the NFL. Former teammate Reid is certainly closer to the NFL radar after an April meeting with the Bengals, but he also believes teams are shying away from him due to his participation in anthem protests. Reid filed a grievance of his own against the NFL in May and has been spotted working out with Kaepernick.

Unfortunately for Murray and Peterson, filing a grievance for age bias against running backs is not an option. The Titans kicked Murray to the curb in March and he has not found a new NFL home despite meeting with the Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins since his release. Peterson has lobbied the Texans, Saints, Packers, Panthers, Dolphins, and Rams to sign him, but we have yet to hear of any reciprocated interest from those clubs. Given Peterson’s reluctance to be on the lower end of a timeshare in New Orleans last year, one has to imagine that Peterson will not be a real consideration for teams unless a starter gets injured in camp. Murray could be a more attractive option for teams. Although he averaged just 3.6 yards per tote with the Titans last year, he contributed in the passing game with 39 receptions.

Bryant says he has no regrets about turning down a three-year, $21MM offer from the Ravens, but right now it looks like he blew his opportunity at a solid free agent deal. Reportedly, many teams are unwilling to consider him for even the league minimum, so it seems unlikely that he’ll find the lucrative one-year contract he’s seeking. On the plus side, his former employer says multiple teams have checked in on him.

Things have been eerily quiet for Maclin after he was displaced by the Ravens, though the Eagles and Cowboys considered him internally in the spring. We also haven’t heard a peep about Decker since his spring meetings with the Raiders and Ravens. Both players are roughly in the same boat – they were 1,000-yard receivers in 2015, but they are on the wrong side of 30 and haven’t done much on the field in the last two years. Still, both profile as low-risk/high-reward signings.

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NFC Notes: Julio, Panthers, Bucs, Rams

As expected, Julio Jones reportedly did not attend the opening day of Falcons organized team activities, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s D. Orlando Ledbetter.

He adds head coach Dan Quinn will address the situation on Tuesday and did not respond to questions about the reports that Jones wants an update to his contract. Though he is absent, the two sides appear amenable and are likely to work things out in due time.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio speculates Jones, who has three years left on his current deal, could be trying to get the team’s attention after Matt Ryan‘s new contract is set to pay the quarterback ($30MM) twice the amount that Jones is to receive ($14.25MM). His current deal slots him in as the No. 8 receiver on the pay scale, behind players like Jarvis Landry, Sammy Watkins and Davante Adams.

Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap says that the word “update” could mean the Falcons moving money forward in Jones’ contract to make the team’s key player happy. On a team in win-now mode, the move could be seen as avoiding potential chemistry issues in the locker room. A recent example of this, according to Fitzgerald, is a similar situation with Antonio Brown and the Steelers.

“The Steelers twice moved money forward in Brown’s contract to prevent a player from being unhappy. In 2015 the Steelers moved $2 million from 2016 up to 2015 and in 2016 they moved $4 million from 2017 into 2016. Overall the team fronted him $4 million and then extended him in 2017.”

Regardless of what the course of action Atlanta chooses to pursue, it is unlikely to hinder it from fielding one of the top three receivers in the league in 2018.  

Here’s more from around the NFC:

  • The Panthers sale to David Tepper is expected to go through without “any surprises,” Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told ESPN’s David Newton. Tepper needs 24 votes — 23 with the absence of former Panthers GM Jerry Richardson — on Tuesday when the 31 NFL owners convene. Richardson is unlikely to attend, but nothing has been set in stone.
  • Florida Football Insiders posted a list of potential free agent targets for the Buccaneers, and named DeMarco Murray and Kenny Vaccaro as possibilities. Murray would make for a solid one-two punch with rookie running back Ronald Jones, while Vaccaro would bring a veteran presence to a shaky pass defense.
  • Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, the Rams‘ fifth-round pick, underwent surgery on his foot and is expected to return sometime during training camp, head coach Sean McVay told ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry (Twitter link). Okoronkwo starred at Oklahoma in 2017, earning Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Big 12 after logging 17.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.