On the surface it seems like an easy enough question for the Dallas Cowboys. With two marque free agents left to sign which one is more critical, Dez Bryant or DeMarco Murray? Both players are coming off career years setting team records in the process. What could possibly be a problem?
Since the advent of plan B free agency the NFL has joined the rest of the free world with supply and demand being the key ingredient that affects free agency. After the free agency signing period has come and gone top players production value is rarely in line with their received contract. Player position still dictates the base as QB’s are at the top. However if you are the best RB in a RB thin year you are going to make bank. Want an example? Think CB Brandon Carr. Ouch. Yes, I did go there.
Both agents will want to focus on 2014 as a base and go from there. The Cowboy will want to look at each players entire NFL career factoring in production curve, ability to stay on the field and off field maturity.
2014 stats – 16 games, 88 receptions, 1,320 yards, 16 touchdowns, 0 fumbles
Career stats – 75 games. 381 receptions, 5,424 yards, 56 touchdowns, 6 fumbles
What a year. Bryant has been durable over the course of his career and is getting better every year. It would seem there are some stout free agents to compete for coin, but not really. Thomas and Maclin will never hit free agency as their teams would franchise them first. This leaves Dez sitting on top (by far) of the 2015 WR pool with 29 other teams waiting to see if Jerry Jones blinks.
2015 Top WR FA
- Demaryius Thomas
- Jeremy Maclin
- Reggie Wayne
- Santana Moss
- Kenny Britt
- Michael Crabtree
- Darrius Heyward-Bey
2014 stats — 16 games, 392 attempts, 1,845 yards, 13 touchdowns, 3 fumbles
Career stats – 53 games, 934 attempts, 4,526 yards, 28 touchdowns, 8 fumbles
What a year number two. Murray has not been durable. He hasn’t been Sean Lee bad, but 2015 was his first full year on the pitch. That being said he has now shown he can do it. He did it by adapting versus getting lucky. Murray’s new regimen where he’s in incredible shape and preps his body for game day in religious fashion paid huge dividends. This works, however over 400 carries (counting playoffs) has to be considered. Murray is sitting on top of the 2015 RB class with 31 other teams watching.
2015 Top RB FA
- Justin Forsett
- Frank Gore
- Roy Helu
- Darren McFadden
- Ryan Mathews
- Ray Rice
The media makes Bryant’s off field troubles seem worse than they are. Since the writers/publications are more about selling print versus accuracy I consistently see variations on the following in bold headlines (web samples):
- “Bryant Can’t Handle Success”
- “Dez Off Field Issues Put NFL Career in Jeopardy”
- “Cowboys Worried About Bryant’s Off Field Behavior”
Perspective tells us Dez is a kid who grew up at times on his own, whose mother (allegedly) was a prostitute and father was AWOL while growing up in neighborhoods with temptations galore. With that launching pad, Bryant managed to stay away from alcohol and drugs, successfully navigated NCAA abuse and become a HUGE success in the NFL. Along the way Bryant is guilty of the following:
- Falling out with Dion Sanders
(is this a bad thing?)
- Refused to carry shoulder pads in rookie camp
(but did he pay!)
- Pants hanging to low at a mall
(throw him and Pac Man Jones in same bus!)
- Monetary issue with bling he obtained in college
(19 year old making money mistakes? Off with his head!)
- Allegedly slapped his mother when he found her in possession of cocaine while on probation at his house
(#comeonman, you can’t be hitting your mother. It’s also your job to keep her out of prison right?)
If the above (felonious?) transgressions are enough for you to write Dez off, that’s your prerogative. If you do however, let me be blunt, get an eye check up today. You are being fooled.
Murray is trickier. The combo attack of 400 carries and injury history has to drive his price down. Once the league caught on to the fact the Cowboys are now a running team Murray was a 1,200 yard back, not an 1,800 yard back and the Cowboys put forth a contract commensurate with that number. They will increase the deal with incentives based on what happens after other offers come rolling in.
After careful consideration neither Rafael or I believe the 400 carries are going to impact his 2016 production behind this line. I reviewed game tape from early in the season with tape from December. Murray was running better later! His vision improved. He had no problems fighting for yards, gaining the tough grind. Murray consistently facing eight and nine man fronts impacted his later production, not his effort or ability. Due to how Murray was used and games missed earlier in his tenure, his “career carries” is in line with a regular work load over his career. Cowboys won’t ride him as hard in 2015 as they will have time to groom options. This will also help keep any incredulous incentives in check. We all know Jerry.
Rafael Vela and I will be focusing on this subject during our next Podcasts later tonight. We will also touch on compensatory picks that should be awarded if the Cowboys lose either player. Click here to listen!
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over