IRVING, Texas — Are the Cowboys making a deadline trade to replace “franchise running back” DeMarco Murray?
The report from NFL.com is defied by logic and denied by the principals.
“That’s not true,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told us when we asked about the Sunday morning report. “There has been no such discussion. The first time I heard of this is from you… It shows what you get when you listen to the news.”
Jones’ last point is an astute one. Sunday morning is when the national network NFL shows present their juiciest content. Including a Cowboys mention is almost mandatory.
The problem: The assertion that Dallas is trying to trade for a running back is being denied by Jones on the record and by an assortment of other Valley Ranch execs on every other level.
“Complete bull—-,” a prominent member of the personnel department told me. “It doesn’t even make sense.”
And there’s are a mountain of reasons why it doesn’t make sense.
First, as we’ve detailed here, NFL rules generally block the sort of “fantasy trades” speculated about by media and fans. In the last seven years, NFL teams have engineered a grand total of 10 deadline trades.
Second is the idea that Murray is or was considered a “franchise running back” inside of Valley Ranch. It is with no disrespect for the talents of the former third-round pick that nobody in the Cowboys hierarchy puts Murray (who missed Sunday’s win in Philly with a knee injury, thus propelling this talk) on that lofty level.
The truth about the Cowboys’ commitment to Murray: His 2014 salary is a bargain at just $755,469, as he will be playing on the final year of his rookie contract. But Joseph Randle was drafted this year in Round 5 with an eye on replacing Murray at a cost of less than $500,000 a year.
Dallas doesn’t want to feel obliged to re-up a potentially fragile player at the vulnerable-to-injury position of running back – therefore, Murray is not considered a “franchise back.”
Now, Jones did late Sunday call Murray “a dominant back.” But in the same breath he added, “You could have all three of these guys at the same time – (injured runner Lance) Dunbar and Murray back and then have Randle play good.”
Murray is 25. Phillip Tanner is 25. Dunbar is 23. Randle is 21. There is reason to believe that somewhere in there, there are answers for the present and future.
Third, the “targeted names” being mentioned are farcical. Because of this report, the Cowboys are rumored to be chasing everyone from expensive Darren McFadden to cheap Ben Tate to unproductive Mark Ingram.
The reports and the rumors, however, fail to take simple math into consideration: McFadden’s Oakland salary this year is $9.685 million. Dallas has, sources tell me, $2.3 million in cap room. The fact that McFadden is, like Jones, an Arkansas product doesn’t explain how the Cowboys would shove a $9.685-million peg into a $2.3-million hole.
They also fail to take into consideration what the other teams (who unlike the Cowboys don’t move the needle on pregame shows) might be thinking on their side of these imaginary phone calls. Houston’s Tate is on the final year of a rookie contract paying him $899,000. The Texans have no reason to give him away for a draft pick – especially because if he leaves Houston, the club receives a compensatory pick in the 2015 Draft that might be superior to the pick you are dangling.
And in regard to Ingram and players like him: Fans have heard of Mark Ingram because of his college career. But in New Orleans, he is the third-string runner in large part because in less than two-and-a-half seasons he’s missed 10 games due to injury. That’s the exact same number of games “injury-prone” DeMarco Murray has missed in the same two-and-a-half seasons.
But those are the historical, logical and financial reasons a deadline deal is unlikely to happen. A bigger reason still? The Cowboys themselves say the notion is “bull—-.”