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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Dallas Cowboys Lose RB DeMarco Murray to Philadelphia Eagles

The media and NFL fans alike tend to overreact at news this time of year. Thursday was no different.

Of course, the loss of running back DeMarco Murray is no small one. After all, he rushed for a league-high 1,845 yards last season. Yes, Murray had help from his great offensive line that featured three Pro Bowlers, but running backs don't rush for 1,800 yards by accident.

It will not be easy for the Dallas Cowboys to find Murray's replacement, yet it was still the right decision to let him walk in free agency. And the Cowboys should still feel that way even though they will be facing him twice a season.

Both Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant were free agents this offseason, and Dallas only had the opportunity to franchise tag one of them. They also had limited cap space to sign the player they decided not to franchise tag.

Given the choice between Bryant and Murray in today's NFL, 10 times out of 10, the Cowboys have to take Bryant just purely based on the position he plays. Bryant is perhaps the most dominating wide receiver in the league. He caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and a league-leading 16 touchdowns.

Murray started the season on fire, rushing for at least 100 yards in 10 of the first 11 games, but he slowed down considerable in December. Whether it was because defenses concentrated more on stopping him or if it was wear-and-tear, Murray averaged just 3.9 yards per attempt after Week 12. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the first 11 games.

Bryant, on the other, finished the season very strongly, catching six touchdowns in the final three games.

Again, Murray's importance to Dallas’ success in 2014 should not be taken lightly. His terrific season made the Cowboys a run-first team, and that paid huge dividends for Bryant and the Cowboys passing game.

But the end of the season statistics highlight one of the biggest reasons the Cowboys had to choose Bryant over Murray. It is very risky to offer a running back, especially an injury-prone one, an expensive long-term contract. The wear-and-tear at the position is just too great. As the stats would suggest, Murray began to wear down with his workload after a little more than half a season.

To think he will reach the 1,800-yard plateau again next year just a season removed from 497 touches is extreme wishful thinking, no matter what offensive line is blocking for him.

There’s at least a decent chance Murray doesn’t play 16 games again. In four NFL seasons, Murray has only suited up for all 16 games in one year once and that only happened last seasonbecause Murray played through a broken hand in December.

Although it seems like wide receivers grow on trees nowadays, Bryant is still a special, special talent that comes with a lot less risk then Murray as long as he behaves off the field.

What is truly amazing is that five years ago, the Cowboys probably don't make this decision. In the "old days", Jerry Jones probably would have handed Murray a check the size of Texas before letting him leave for a division rival. 

All the sudden, the Dallas Cowboys are drafting offensive lineman in the first round, which they have done three of the last four years, making sure they lock them up for the long run and retaining key coaches such as Jason Garrett, Bill Callahan and Rod Marinelli.

Those moves don't grab any headlines, but they are all safe, wise decisions.

Since 2011, one of the biggest criticisms of the Dallas Cowboys was their desire to make big, attention grabbing moves rather than sound football ones. This offseason, they made the best out of a sticky situation, franchised Bryant and offered Murray a decent contract, only to see him leave in free agency, and again they received criticism.

For once, based on Murray's injury history and asking price, Jerry Jones, or more likely Stephen Jones, made the wise decision, the safe pick, to let Murray walk away in free agency.


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