Dallas Cowboys: $16 Million Offer To DeMarco Murray Too High


The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly offered a four-year, $16 million contract to All-Pro running back DeMarco Murray. That is far too much for this team to pay a running back.

"Editor’s Note: “There’s seems to be some confusion among readers about when this alleged offer to DeMarco Murray was actually made by the Dallas Cowboys. According to our research, Ian Rapoport was the first to report this deal back on October 5, 2014."

"Although Rapaport did report on the length of the deal, he did give an exact financial sum. Instead, only saying it would be a larger amount than any other running back got in free agency in 2014. The highest paid free agent running back last year was the New York Jets’ Chris Johnson, receiving a two-year deal at $8 million total. On January 14, 2015, Chris Wesseling of NFL.com appears to be the first writer to place the number $16 million attached to the deal. Wesseling most likely got this number by using Johnson deal, $4 million per year, and applying it to Murray’s alleged four-year deal reported by Rapoport from October. In fact, Wesseling actually states the deal is worth “slightly more” than the alleged $16 million, again speculating off of Rapoport’s original tweet. It is assumed this deal has been on the table since October. But in actuality, no one knows where the current deal stands other than the Cowboys’ front office and Murray’s representatives.” – SM"

I love Murray as a player, but the Cowboys have invested premium organizational resources on the offensive line and the decision to do so should impact how they allocate cap space.

The Cowboys have built their roster in such a way that they do not need to retain running backs on second contracts to get great production from that position. That’s an advantage in a capped league.

In a capped league, no team is great at everything. In a capped league, a general manager must pick certain positions in which to invest heavy, then fill in the gaps as best he can with whatever cap space is left.

The simple truth is, the Cowboys have built their roster in such a way that they do not need to retain running backs on second contracts to get good production from that position. That’s an advantage in a capped league. That advantage is neutralized the moment you pay a running back anything over the rookie pay scale.

A smart GM does not use three first-round picks on offensive linemen, hit on all three, then pay a running back. In a capped league, that’s bad personnel management. Murray is a really good football player. Dallas may not be as good at running back after he leaves, but their investment up front means they can still be terrific. Then they can use the cap space they would have spent on an All Pro back to shore up other roster needs.

Given the Cowboys’ investment up front, I think Murray would be foolish to reject this contract. Some have called the offer insulting, but they’re thinking very narrowly.

If Murray wants to be an All Pro again next year, he’ll sign it. The Cowboys have arguably the best young offensive line in football, and an All Pro needs holes to run through. The Cowboys have a physical offensive philosophy that is absolutely committed to running the football, and an All Pro needs carries to rack up stats.

If Murray wants a chance to be rich, he’ll sign it. That sounds counter-intuitive, but a player of Murray’s caliber and stature can have many sources of income. A nice contract can make a player rich; endorsements can make a player filthy, stinking rich.

The Dallas Cowboys are the most-watched franchise in the NFL, even when they’re mediocre. When they’re winning, they take over the country. Marketers love the Dallas Cowboys.

For marketable players (such as the All Pro running back of the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys, for example) the contract is a moderate piece of a really big income pie. As I pointed out in my recent post regarding Dez Bryant‘s contract status, being a Dallas Cowboy can put money in your pocket in ways being a Cincinnati Bengal can’t.

To earn endorsements, it helps to play for a winner, and the Cowboys’ arrow is pointing up. To earn endorsements, one must produce on the field, and there isn’t a team in the league with a more optimistic three-year projection for running the football than the Cowboys: Three Pro Bowl linemen, all under 25; a head coach and offensive coordinator who want to control the line of scrimmage and run the ball.

Murray can sign a market-value contract elsewhere, make $8 million a year, and roll the dice: On how he will be used in the offense. On how well the offensive line will perform. On how capably the quarterback will be able to take the pressure off the running game. On how marketable he’ll be for endorsement opportunities.

Or he can stay in Dallas where he can be rich and successful. He can also, as evidenced by his role in the offense and his place in the locker room, be a respected and much-appreciated player.

Four years at $16 million is more than the Cowboys should pay a running back, and I think the brass probably knows that. This offer is sentimental. The Cowboys like Murray. They’re willing to sacrifice their cap edge to keep him. This offer a compliment, not an insult.