Don’t let the franchise tag fool you — Dez Bryant will get his big money, regardless of the “Area 51 Wal-Mart videotape” that is a figment of the imagination of people who would rather make up the news than report it (the lecture is over).
The dreaded franchise tag the Cowboys used Monday on Bryant will sour his mood, but not his production. Eight-eight likely has learned he has the same leverage as the rest of these guys — zero. And a guy like Dez cares too much to mail it in.
Speaking of not fooling ourselves, the DeMarco Murray issue needs to be addressed.
The Cowboys are allowing Murray to test the free-agent market because they don’t want to pay stupid money. Previously I was convinced they had to let Murray go, but, on closer inspection, they need to bring him back. Even at stupid money.
This will not be another case like Marion Barber, the former running back the team foolishly spent big money on only to cut him later without receiving the proper return.
Murray will never be worth stupid money, but this contract is not just about one player. It’s about the guy handing him the ball.
It’s foolish to pay it backward, but it is arrogant to think the Cowboys can create or find a guy to do what Murray did last season. It’s equally dangerous to think, as good as Tony Romo is, the Cowboys can let this team be all his again or that just anybody can watch his back.
This team’s window is no different than any other that considers itself a contender — it’s open as long as the quarterback is upright. Romo needs a running back, and someone he can trust. Romo will be 35 in April, his back will be 75 in August.
The perception is that you can find a good running back anywhere, but that’s not entirely accurate. Only 13 running backs rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, nine of whom will be older than 25 when this season begins.
The perception is that you, me or our neighbor’s Labrador could rush for 1,300 yards behind this offensive line. On closer inspection, is it worth the risk?
It has taken coach Jason Garrett years to set up this offense the way he envisioned with the type of balance he desires, and to chance it right now with a quarterback of this age and in this state is too risky, even by Jerry Jones’ gambling-loving ways.
Rookies can’t be trusted, not even the ones drafted in the first round. The team has issues with Joseph Randle that extend beyond his shopping habits. Veteran signees seldom produce the way they did with their previous teams. And this quarterback’s back is simply too important to trust to someone who is not familiar with the drill.
Murray might never “do it again” but for two more years the Cowboys have to be all-in. The only way to be all-in is to have a running back they trust who can turn in yards and protect their most valued asset when he drops back to pass. Murray can do that.
The Cowboys are banking they can easily replace Murray and not suffer a drop-off because of their line, or that every other team shares their philosophy about running backs. They could be right about both, but all it takes is one.
If Murray’s replacement blows a blocking assignment at the wrong time and Romo gets hurt, it’s over.
If one team decides to go big on Murray money, he’s gone. He might want to stay here and win games, but he will never have this opportunity to make this much money again in his career. Any normal person would take the top figure.
The Colts have money to spend, and a franchise quarterback who desperately needs a running back.
The safer, wiser play is to bring Murray back and expect a little less. It will be expensive, Murray has flaws — he will never have another 1,800-yard season — but he is good. He can be trusted to have his teammates’ backs and, more importantly, his quarterback’s back.
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Mac Engel, 817-390-7697
Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog