The Market for DeMarco Murray


There are a number of teams who would like to have DeMarco Murray as their starting running back.  In 2014, the guy led the league in yards and touchdowns (tied with Marshawn Lynch for 13), fumbled only three times despite carrying the ball 392, and was pretty darn good picking up blitzes, too.  He really is a special player.

The league is different now, though. A decade ago, that performance would have guaranteed a monstrous contract.  In today’s league, only one running back averages more than $9 million a year – compared to ten wide receivers who make above that mark.  That one running back, by the way, is Adrian Peterson who is on an $86 million contract, but only about 24% is guaranteed.

Although the case could be made that Murray is more talented than Adrian Peterson, the former could never command as much money because of his injury history and the fact that he is not the face of his franchise – at least in Dallas.  For these reasons, expect the Cowboys to offer Murray a contract north of $35 million (still making him a top 5 paid back) but heavy on conditions and a low guaranteed payment percentage.

Could there be a team, however, that is willing to bet on Murray enough to pay him like a franchise leader and bet that he’s beaten his injury issues once and for all?  It would have to be a team without too much money invested in other positions.  Furthermore, since DeMarco Murray may have just entered his prime, he is not likely to sign with a non-competitive club (a contract may be bigger but additional financial opportunities come with successful teams).  Here are a few teams who can realistically complete with the Cowboys for #29’s services:

Carolina Panthers – If DeAngelo Williams is cut before June 1st, it won’t count very much against Carolina’s cap.  Jonathan Stewart had a nice 2014, averaging around 4.6 yards a carry.  But after appearing in only 13 games and carrying the ball more than ten times in just 9, Stewart has furthered his reputation of being unreliable.  Jonathan Stewart, in fact, is a lot like pre-2013 Demarco Murray.  The Panthers are a good team with several holes that, if filled, could mean another playoff appearance and quite possibly more.  This is precisely why they might be open to spending some cash on a premium running back and focusing their draft on other needs.

Buffalo Bills – The Bills have an astounding defense – one that led them to a 9-7 season which wasn’t enough to beat out the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots for the division’s top spot.  Last summer, they extended Fred Jackson for one year and the 34-year old is almost certainly on his way out after the season.  His younger counter-part C.J. Spiller is a free agent and not expected to return.  Although there are big questions at Quarterback, this is a competitive team with enough money to host DeMarco Murray’s talent.

Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals are an excellent organization.  Head Coach Bruce Arians looks like a rising star and the team is filled with studs – both young and old.  Like the Cowboys a few years ago, the Cards had their aspirations crushed this past season when starting Quarterback Carson Palmer was lost to injury.  While Running Back Andre Ellington is a phenomenal talent, he can’t seem to stay healthy and at 5’9, some observers – like the folks over at RotoWorld (citing beat reporter Darren Ubran) think that his frame is ill-equipped for every back duties.  His primary backup Stepfan Taylor, by the way, is also just 5’9 and has been thought of by some as a scat back since he first entered the league.  With all things considered, the league’s best football team through 75% of the season may just drop a bomb by picking up DeMarco Murray.  His cut-back style would work nicely in that system, and he and Andre Ellington could likely feed off each other – keeping them both fresh and making the run game a constant threat.  Some of those vet contracts might have to be restructured, but the Cardinals have a lot more ability to do so than the Cowboys at this point.

What jersey do you think DeMarco Murray will don in 2015?  Sound off in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the SportDFW newsletter!!