IRVING, Texas — DeMarco Murray is hitting free agency and because of his talent and profile — and because of the Cowboys’ profile — a skillion tales have been written about what’s about to transpire. Some of those are fact–based. Some are fiction. Let’s explore the differences:
CLAIM: If the Dallas Cowboys are going to pay Dez, they’ll probably have to part ways with DeMarco.
FICTION: Completely false. Dez’ deal has nothing to do with DeMarco Murray’s deal. Dallas can create whatever cap room necessary to sign these two (and virtually anyone else). Except for the fact that Dez and DeMarco were usually road roommates for 2014, there is no correlation between what is going on with them. (The origin of this misunderstood angle is explained here.)
CLAIM: "Sources" tell somebody DeMarco Murray will remain with the Cowboys if their offer is the same as what other teams offer.
FACT: Well, it’s true … but do we really need "sources" to tell us that? If the Raiders or the Titans or the Colts offer DeMarco, say, $9 mil a year, and Dallas responds by saying, "Aw, heck! Only $9 million? We’ll happily do that! C’mon home, D–Mo!" … Murray will almost certainly remain with the Cowboys.
The problem is that some other team really might give him market–value … and in the above scenario, the Cowboys WON’T match.
CLAIM: The Cowboys will give DeMarco a "reasonable offer” as he enters free agency. Once again, according to "sources.”
FICTION: The problem with "unnamed sources” is that they should not be used to trump the revelations those involved are willing to offer on–the–record. In an exclusive with Stephen Jones, CowboysHQ.com learned last weekend of the team’s "shop–and–drop” plans with DeMarco Murray. Dallas plans no "reasonable offer” until DeMarco brings one back to them. At which time they will attempt to match … or not.
Said Stephen: "He’s probably going to get some peace (of mind) and see what’s out in the market and then we’ll talk and see. I do believe deep down he’d love to stay in Dallas. We’ve had some really good football players go into free agency; Novacek and Woodson and, you know, they still signed with the Cowboys.”
This process has begun, as clubs are permitted to contact and enter into contract negotiations with players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 3 p.m. (Dallas time) on March 10. A contract cannot be executed with a new club until after that time. DeMarco will be fielding offers. He may or may not bring them back to Dallas to examine. But we’ll be very surprised if the Cowboys do the reverse of this, and serve as the ones to begin the bidding.
CLAIM: NFL "sources" tell somebody Murray will get "up to" $10 million a year.
FICTION: As long as "up to" means "less than," we guess this report is accurate. But that’s not what the author is trying to insinuate. Teams are trying to rid themselves or the ballast of employing their highest–paid player at the running back position (see AD and McCoy). Teams are not clamoring to do the opposite.
It only takes one crazy bidder, of course. But logic tells us that said "crazy bidder" would not announce its intentions to be crazy to the media. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s probably not true. So says Judge Judy. Words to live by.
It it not logical that a team would tell a reporter, well in advance of free agency, than it plans to offer DeMarco $10 mil. Therefore, it probably didn’t happen.
CLAIM: DeMarco is hanging around with the coach and the QB to see a Duke game. That proves he’s bonded here â and it’s meant as a sign of unity against the Joneses.
FICTION: DeMarco has grown close with Romo and Witten. We knew this a couple of years ago when they led a group that traveled to New Jersey for Miles Austin’s wedding.
And then Miles Austin got released by the Cowboys. Because friendships do not trump finance.
It’s wonderful that the Cowboys’ leaders are bonded. But this is not news to the Joneses. The fellas don’t need to coordinate photo–ops to let ownership know how much they like each other. Jerry and Stephen already know. They happen to also like Garrett, Witten, Romo and DeMarco. But "like" isn’t a centerpiece of negotiations â and should not be.
The only thing we really learned from the Duke visit is that Jason Witten plays basketball … exactly as you’d expect him to.
CLAIM: Anything having to do with DeMarco Murray takes priority over anything to do with Adrian Peterson.
FICTION: Stunningly ridiculous. Murray at the wrong price is a terrible idea. AD at the right price is a superior player and a superior idea. All other things (years on contract, for instance) being equal, any personnel department employee who thinks DeMarco is a better football player than Peterson should be fired.
CLAIM: DeMarco will take a "hometown discount" to stay in Dallas.
FICTION: We will reluctantly go with this, because "hometown discount" is incredibly vague. It gets thrown around by the media during times like this, but negotiations are about hard dollars, not about bumper–sticker "vaguarities.”
We can be more specific.
"I don’t see a number,” Jerry Jones said. "I see a (bracketed) range." Believe him when he says, "We want DeMarco enough that I got some serious flexibility in my bracket.”
We have reported that Dallas (at mid–season) wanted to do a deal worth about $4 mil annually and that Murray wanted something comparable to Jamaal Charles’ $9 mil annually. Even assuming there’s been a little movement there … even assuming there will be further movement … those numbers aren’t the same. Those ranges aren’t the same. Those brackets aren’t the same.
CLAIM: DeMarco said his priority is to win a Super Bowl. Therefore, he is more likely to stay in Dallas.
FICTION: If Dallas pulls this off and retains him at an affordable price, this claim (and the one about friendship) will be the highlights of the jubilant press conference.
And they will be fibs.
For one thing: If Murray signs with Indy or Oakland or Tampa, guess what he will say at those press conferences? He will say, "I’m here to help Team X win a Super Bowl." That’s what he will say. Oh, and it’s what he’ll try to do, too.
For another thing: I know this is sacrilege in Cowboys Nation, but … who says the Cowboys are inches away from a Super Bowl? You HOPE Dallas is building toward continued true contention. But this is an 8–8 league. There are at least two teams in Dallas’ own division that think THEY are a bounce away from the Super Bowl.
And they are not wrong. Nor are the 20 to 28 NFL teams that harbor the same hopes.
CLAIM: The Cowboys other runners are JAGs.
FACT: I can make the argument that Joseph Randle demonstrated explosiveness when it played. But do the Cowboys trust him? I can make the argument that Ryan Williams has the pedigree to start (and Dallas gave him a bonus that makes him different than your usual practice–squadder). … but if he’s special, how did he never see the field last year?
But free agency and the draft will be a game of Musical Chairs. If you don’t like Randle and if you don’t like Williams and if somebody else pays Murray … well, there are more capable running backs available than there are starting jobs.
CLAIM: They can’t "plug in" "just anybody" to replicate DeMarco Murray’s 1,800 yards.
FACT: It’s true. It can’t be "just anybody." It’ll be a guy, or a group of running–back–by–committee guys, who collectively give Dallas a dominant running game, pass–catching production out of the backfield, and pass–protection help for Romo. (Here, a Cowboys theory of running–back–by–committee.)
CLAIM: DeMarco is young. He’s three years from 30!
FICTION: Conventional wisdom says NFL running backs fade at 30. But the Cowboys are in possession of a study that shows that "star" runners with big production actually fade right after 27. In short: When "standout” runners turn 28, their yards–per–game production goes down 18 percent … at 29, down 30 percent … at 30, down 45 percent … at 31, down 46 percent … at 32, down 55 percent.
Stephen Jones is frank about what this sort of trend means.
"Running backs have kind of evolved in this league," Jones said. "It’s tough for running backs to have a lot of longevity …”
As you scan around the NFL at available (or maybe available) runners, who do you think might be the exception to this rule? DeMarco Murray? Or, say, Adrian Peterson?
Oh, and regarding AD: Peterson’s current 2015 cap hit stands at $15.4 million. $12.75 million is base, $.25 million is workout bonus and $2.4 million is prorated bonus. The base and workout bonus would disappear if released, leaving just the $2.4 million in dead money. That would give the Vikings the net result of $13 million in savings if Peterson insists upon not re–doing a deal and expresses continued dislike of his surrounding and they released him.
That $2.4 mil in dead money is also the only amount Minny eats if they trade him. Ah, but who would trade for AD with his three years of salary locked in at $13 mil, $15 mil and $17 mil for three years?
Nobody would. But you can, in theory, trade for Peterson under the terms of a new, cheaper contract. He seemingly is facing Minnesota asking him to take a cut to stay. He can turn that down. And he might be willing to trash the $45 mil and start over in Dallas. And the $2.4 mil in dead money means the Vikings’ cap doesn’t have to suffer for having sent him away.
So Peterson, when he is truly ready to play his cards, has a very good hand. And the Cowboys can expect to be candidates to be dealt in.
CLAIM: The Cowboys owe him. (Or, he owes the Cowboys.)
FICTION: That’s not the way any of this works. Dallas owes itself cap intelligence. And DeMarco — who plays a position that allows a guy only one big NFL payday — owes it to himself to chase that payday.
It’d be a helluva story if the two sides a compromise and DeMarco Murray avoids being the first defending NFL running champ to change teams. But all the two sides owe here is … owed to themselves.