There was a time when a running back could literally carry a team. Although he certainly did not do it alone, Emmitt Smith led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories and became the NFL’s leader in career rushing yards.
Today’s NFL is no longer the game of old. The league’s best running back, Adrian Peterson, now leads his team to top draft picks instead of titles. In fact, through the 2013-2014 season, of the top 5 running backs in yards, only two went on to make the playoffs. All 5 top running backs, LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Alfred Morris, and Adrian Peterson found themselves watching the second round of the playoffs on their couches.
DeMarco Murray had himself a solid season during the ’13-’14 campaign. Murray eclipsed the coveted 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his three year career, found the end-zone a total of 10 times, and managed to play in 14 of 16 games despite his injury prone label. While Murray deserves the praise of Cowboys fans and a pat on the back from owner, Jerry Jones, that’s all the Cowboy can afford to give him. Despite three solid seasons and a potential breakout year in 2014, Dallas must not give Murray his pay day.
Running backs should not get paid beyond their rookie contracts in today’s NFL. Rookie running backs are perfectly capable of producing similar numbers to top NFL veterans. Three rookies found themselves in the NFL’s top 20 rushers: Eddie Lacy (1,178 yards), Zac Stacy (973 yards), and Le’Veon Bell (860 yards). Running back is a young man’s position where fewer hits, fresh legs, and small contracts create success.
Murray, regardless of his output, would be too much of a salary cap hit for the Cowboys to bear. Signing a running back, even one of Murray’s caliber, must be put on the back burner until all-pro caliber players such as left tackle, Tyron Smith, and wide receiver, Dez Bryant are signed long term. The Cowboys are still paying off dead money in Jay Ratliff, Miles Austin, Kyle Orton, and paying quarterback, Tony Romo, a whopping $27, 773,000 in 2015 alone is not helping the situation. Murray must be a casualty for salary cap sake, not because of the job he has done, but the position he plays.
The Cowboys have invested money and picks in the offensive trenches. The Cowboys now have three first round picks on their offensive line and it is time to see that investment pay dividends. Cowboys fans have a lot to thank Murray for. Sacrificing your body and producing with very few carries isn’t easy. However, running back is not a position for old men, and at 26, Murray is middle-aged and expensive. Come next off-season, Jerry Jones must cut ties, give Murray a firm handshake, and look for their next running back in the draft.