The two most important non-quarterbacks on the Dallas Cowboys offensive roster in 2013 were Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray. And if the team does nothing this offseason, 2014 will be the final year of their respective rookie contracts.
The team should do nothing.
Bryant signed a five-year deal as a first-round pick in 2010. In the final season of said contract, he'll count only $3.1 million against the cap, according to Spotrac.
Murray signed a four-year deal as a third-round pick in 2011. In the final season of said contract, he'll count only $950,000 against the cap, according to the same source.
|Bryant and Murray: 2014 cap hits|
|Age||Cap hit||Team cap hit rank|
|Dez Bryant||25||$3.149 M||13th|
Now, they both probably deserve more, but the somewhat ironic reality is the Cowboys are the poorest team in the NFL when it comes to cap space. They'll be fighting to get under the cap as soon as the offseason officially arrives, and there's no reason for them to obstruct that process by committing more cash to two players still under contract.
They could back-load either extension, but consider the restructure spree they went on last offseason. The bills will come due eventually. Serenity now, insanity later.
And here's the thing: You've got the franchise tag in your back pocket. If Bryant puts together another big campaign and negotiations become difficult next spring, you tag him. It's that simple. In the franchise-tag game, receivers don't cost as much as quarterbacks or defensive ends.
And by comparison, running backs are dirt cheap. That, of course, is because in 2013 they're worth somewhere in the range of a dime a dozen. So while it's encouraging that Murray had a breakout season with 5.2 yards per carry and nearly 1,500 yards from scrimmage in 14 games, his value in upcoming seasons will be hard to peg.
That's especially the case here. Murray will turn 26 in a month. At that point, he'll already be a middle-aged NFL running back. He's yet to make it through a full season due to various injuries. Sadly, it's very possible he peaked in 2013.
Bryant's case is much different. Higher expectations, for sure. And he's only 25, which is still young in the world of NFL wide receivers. The Cowboys value him more, I promise. But he'd also demand quite a hefty contract after putting together back-to-back seasons with more than 90 catches, 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns.
|Where they ranked in 2013|
|Yardage||Yards per catch/run||Touchdowns|
|Pro Football Reference|
Make Murray and him prove themselves one more time. Let's see if Dez can stay out of trouble for another year. Let's see if Murray can stay healthy. If they come through, you pay up, and you might even have to use the tag. But signing either to a long-term deal right now just isn't worth the short- or long-term risk.