DeMarco Murray is definitely the Dallas Cowboys’ best running back. In a perfect world he would be extended for a reasonable sum and he would help carry the Cowboys to the Superbowl. Since you are reading this, you must be a Cowboys fan, which means you are fully, depressingly, aware that the world isn’t perfect and that the Cowboys are flawed in a number of ways.
It is doubtful that extending DeMarco Murray would solve any of these flaws.
Though Murray has had trouble staying on the field, he has still has produced enough to deserve at least thought of an extension. But actually extending him puts the possibility of affording Dez Bryant or Tyron Smith in serious jeopardy.
Most likely, Bryant and Smith are not going anywhere after this season. As Todd Archer points out, the Cowboys have an option on Smith’s contract to extend him through the 2015 season and they can always franchise Bryant. But then what?
Two off-seasons from now Bryant will be 27, Smith 25. After some emergency cap-clearing, the Cowboys already have 5.7 million in cap room space, which will expand when Miles Austin comes off of the books. That number will be much larger by 2016 (assuming the Cowboys franchise Bryant– Smith’s option is a no doubter).
But 2016 also marks the offseason when Morris Claiborne becomes a free agent. The Cowboys would have limited money for Smith, Bryant, and Claiborne (SBC). It is probably impossible to sign all three without Murray’s contract, and two may be a stretch depending on how bad the Cowboys’ free agent signings are in the next year. Still, the opportunity to extend one of the league’s best receivers and an excellent tackle is worth more than the guaranteed play of an above average running back.
As the NFL has grown more pass-happy, the market for running backs has shrunken considerably. Only three running backs has been drafted the last two years, and two of those three were picked in the bottom 30. Even Murray himself was a third round pick.
The chance of finding a useful running back in the middle to late rounds is higher now then ever, since running backs that would have been drafted in the first now clutter the second. The Cowboys, if they wished, could draft a first-round caliber player in the second round, or a second-round caliber player later. Either decision is much cheaper than extending Murray, no matter what he demands. These new draft picks would be younger than Murray, will be 28 in 2016. Running backs typically decline around 29.
Depending on how the Cowboys structure the extensions, the Cowboys could possibly extend Murray without putting 2/3 of SBC in jeopardy. But that would likely require the same cap gymnastics that are plaguing the Cowboys today. Signing 2/3 of SBC might require cap gymnastics even without Murray, but extending him would no doubt dig the team into a further hole.
I simply don’t understand the logic in jeopardizing the chances of extending 1-2 of Bryant, Smith, or Claiborne when there are cheaper, younger options available.