The 2014 NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys have re-signed Head Coach Jason Garrett and Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Coaching is quite important, perhaps more so in the NFL than any other professional sport. However, Garrett and Marinelli wouldn’t fare too well on an NFL field. The two big free agents that the Cowboys must contend with are RB DeMarco Murray and WR Dez Bryant
Free Agent: RB DeMarco Murray
Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher last season, has not publicly stated his displeasure in the rather paltry offer of a four-year deal worth approximately $16M from the Cowboys. However, seeing as that’s more of a punter’s salary than a stud running back’s, we can understand why Murray might be miffed.
Who could blame him? Murray, who turns 27 next month, is just entering his prime, and has what many consider the best offensive line blocking for him for the foreseeable future. 2014 could just be the beginning of even greater things for Murray.
On the flip side, running backs tend to see a precipitous decline in their production after a season in which their workload is increased exponentially – Shaun Alexander, Marion Barber, Larry Johnson, etc. Murray toted the rock 392 times last season – nearly twice as much as his previous career high of 217 in 2013.
This certainly throws up a red flag. But with what projects to be a weak running back draft class, and few viable free agent options on the market, Murray might be worth his somewhat excessive asking price.
Key stats: 2014 1st Team All-Pro. Set Dallas Cowboys single-season rushing record with 1,875 yards during the regular season. Did not miss a game in 2014, although durability has been a question in the past.
Free Agent: WR Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant is one of the top three wide receivers in the NFL. The scary part about Dez is that he is just entering his prime and will only get better. Other teams covet a durable, freakishly gifted athlete such as Bryant.
One option for the Dallas Cowboys, should they not be able to reach a long-term deal with Bryant, is to place the “franchise” tag on him, which would pay him $12.5M for the 2015 season, and buy the ‘Boys another year at the negotiating table.
There is no question that Bryant deserves a huge payday and a multi-year deal. Bryant just turned 26 in November, and wide receivers tend to have much longer careers than running backs. In other words, Dez’s value is far more long-term than Murray’s.
Key stats: 2014 1st Team All-Pro. Set Dallas Cowboys record with 16 TD catches during the regular season. Hasn’t missed a game since 2011, and has over 1,233 receiving yards and at least 10 TDs in each of the last three seasons.
Jerry Jones has been quoted as saying that re-signing both Murray and Bryant “probably doesn’t look reasonable.” But fear not, Cowboys’ fans, when it comes to doling out the dough, Mr. Jones is rarely “reasonable.” And of course, in the same quote he starts off by saying that it is possible, so thanks for clearing that up for us, Mr. Jones.
With the Cowboys monetary commitment to Tony Romo for the foreseeable future, coupled with the rarity of a playmaking wide receiver, I’d re-sign Bryant over Murray. However, both sides of the argument can be seen. The 2015 NFL Draft doesn’t look like it has any first round running back talent, and Murray is arguably one of the best runners in the game.
The bottom line is which is easier to replace should they decide to sign elsewhere? For my money, Bryant is the one to keep. It certainly won’t be easy to find a runner of Murray’s caliber, but with the strength of the Cowboys’ offensive line, I like my odds at replacing Murray much more than replacing Bryant, who has a chance at a Hall of Fame career.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!