The old fashioned game of Texas stare down between the Dallas Cowboys and free agent running back DeMarco Murray ended in seemingly unthinkable fashion Thursday when the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year got the money he wanted with a hated division rival.
Murray flew to Philadelphia via private plane on Thursday and indeed agreed to a contract with Eagles.
Murray confirmed the departure from the Cowboys via text message: “Things didn’t work out. No hard feelings at. Wish those guys the best.”
Murray can be in a giving mood as he finally got what he wanted in his quest to cash in on his record-breaking season in free agency.
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Murray will get $42 million over five years, including $21 million in guaranteed money, per reports.
Although the Cowboys said they wanted Murray to return, they never came close to meeting his contract demands, citing the diminished value of the running back and the decline in production as they get older.
Murray led the NFL with a team-record 1,845 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns last season, when he played a full 16-game schedule for the first time in his four-year career. His 392 rushing attempts were at least 100 attempts more than every player in the NFL, save for LeSean McCoy (312), whom he replaces in the Eagles offense.
Clearly, the Eagles placed a higher value on the league’s leading rusher.
The last player to change teams after leading the NFL in rushing yardage was Bill Dudley, who was traded to the Detroit Lions by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1947.
The Cowboys stuck to the budget and to their principles.
Now they are on the hunt for a new running back.
Replacing Murray won’t be easy, considering his physical style gave the Cowboys their identity on offense.
But there is no discounting the importance the league’s best offensive line, led by three Pro Bowlers in tackle Tyron Smith, guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick, played in Murray’s success.
The Cowboys’ commitment to a run-oriented offense paved the way for quarterback Tony Romo’s career year, and they have maintained they will retain the same run focus with or without Murray.
Former Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller tops the diminishing list of options for the Cowboys in free agency, although he is more a third-down back than an every down replacement for Murray.
The Cowboys have Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams as holdovers from last year, though none are proven starters nor run with Murray’s physicality.
The good news is that the 2015 NFL Draft is loaded with quality running backs, including Georgia’s Todd Gurley, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman and Boise State’s Jay Ajayi to name a few.
All are options for the suddenly running back needy Cowboys, who now will have to place that position at the top of their list of draft needs along with upgrading the pass rush and cornerback.