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Dez Bryant or DeMarco Murray?

Dez Bryant

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?

The Problems

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.

Dez Bryant

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

DeMarco Murray

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


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!

Till then, let us know what you think below. Dez Bryant or DeMarco Murray?
(Multiple selections allowed)

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What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Analyst, Editor, Photographer, Writer at SportsTalkLine
Editor, Writer, Podcaster & Photographer for @SportsTalkLine Network. I watch sports, I talk about sports then I write about sports. Catch me on Twitter @StevenVanOver
Steven Van Over
Steven Van Over

Latest posts by Steven Van Over (see all)

  • Football Mensa

    Spot on Steven about Dez not really being a problem child. The media doesn’t have anything better to do. Boo Hoo he didn’t carry some pads. In football years that was like a million years ago. Dez is a superb talent but how much do you pay him ? I’m not in favor of him getting a 100 mil. I don’t think he is 100 mil good. I think the Cowboys are content with franchising him.

    Taylor it would be optimal to sign both and I think it very well could happen. Second contracts for rb’s isn’t what it used to be. Especially a rb with over 400 touches in a season. We’ll see. Make no mistake though it was Murray who was the lynchpin of the offense. We don’t have another back who is that good. It allowed Romo to play within the offensive constraints and have his best year. Randle isn’t in the same stratosphere as Murray. As a starter Randle would put Romo in the hospital.

    Kameleon you never make your initial offer your best offer.

    Oh and Steven….I would cut Lee. He can’t be counted on. He’s had numerous concussions and it’s time to move on. It’s difficult to have depth at every position and counting on an injury prone player implies you’re moving backwards as well as wasting a roster spot.

    • Taylor

      Anything Raf and Steven saw on tape, other teams will see. There may be a team, Indy, for example, who might see Murray as the final piece of the puzzle. I certainly agree that there is no other back or combination of backs on the Cowboys to replace Murray, but if I was his agent, I would take the biggest money, because backs don’t last that long. I don’t recall Lee having concussion issues, but he has blown both knees, one of them twice, a wrist injury that required surgery and a big toe that required surgery. Not a guy to build around.

  • Taylor

    My preference is to sign both to team friendly deals, but I doubt that happens. Of the two, Dez has more upside, and a longer productive span. I am a big Murray fan, but he is at the peak, age wise, of an NFL rb career.

    • kameleon_o

      I’d love to sign them both to team friendly deals but that’s not gonna happen. I’d go after Dez first and then Murray. What I would do is stop pussyfooting around and sign Dez. Then I’d use the franchise on Murray. Dez is going to get a top deal so get it out of the way. That being said, IMO, the Cowboys offering Murray something as low as a 4 year $16 mill deal is almost like they aren’t even trying. I’d offer him 4 years $20 mill and guarantee $15 mill and get it out of the way in the first 3 years so we can cut him after that.

    • Prince Of Heck

      Of the 2, Dez would be harder to replace. Dez is the first priority.