Running back DeMarco Murray followed up his league-leading 1,845 rushing yards in 2014 for the Dallas Cowboys with a disappointing 2015 for the Philadelphia Eagles. He won’t get the chance to prove last year was a fluke to Eagles fans in 2016, as he has been traded to the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans posted a photo of Murray signing a new contract:
Murray commented on the news, via Titansonline.com:
I’m 100 percent (motivated). The NFL is a place where you have to make the best of your opportunities, and every day is a challenge, every day is a competition. I look forward to competing every day and getting back on track and running the ball the way I know I can, and running plays I am intrigued by.
Adam Schefter of ESPN initially reported the Titans were finalizing a deal to acquire Murray. Geoff Mosher of 97.5 The Fanatic reported Wednesday that the deal involves swapping fourth-round draft picks, which would move the Eagles to the top of the round.
SportsTrust Advisors represents Murray, and it took to Twitter to confirm the rumors:
Schefter added the running back “was given permission to find a trade partner, and he identified and sought out Tennessee, which he thought to be a good fit and an exciting opportunity, according to one person who knows Murray.”
Murray's new deal with the Titans will be for $25.5 million, with $12.5 million guaranteed, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
ESPN's Ed Werder cited a Dallas Cowboys source who didn't think a trade back to his original team would ever happen: "Don't believe Philly would ever trade to us."
Murray may just be relieved to get out of Philadelphia after a trying season statistically. He only posted one game with more than 100 rushing yards throughout the 2015 campaign after reaching the century mark in 12 different contests in 2014. It was a far cry from the elevated standards he set for himself in a Dallas uniform:
|Season||Team||Games||Rushing Yards||Rushing Touchdowns||Yards per Carry||Receiving Yards||Touchdown Catches|
Murray didn’t waste much time showing frustration for the Eagles. He finished with a measly two rushing yards on 13 carries in a September matchup against the Cowboys and then said, “I don’t think I am,” when he was asked if he was seeing enough of the ball following a 1-3 start, per Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com.
Despite the disappointing efforts, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howard Roseman recently went on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and indicated Murray wanted to stay in the City of Brotherly Love (via Florio):
My last conversation with him was just that. That he wants to be here and this is the place he wants to have a tremendous amount of success like he had in Dallas. I think sometimes we forget a year ago at this time he’s coming off the NFL offensive player of the year. I mean that’s a tremendous honor, tremendous accomplishment to be able to do that and we’re not talking about five, six years ago. We’re talking about one year ago.
Intention to stay or not, there was also a financial angle to the entire Murray situation.
Florio said the running back’s fully guaranteed salary for 2016 was $7 million and added more context as to why Philadelphia would want to trade him: “Though it has been widely (and inaccurately) reported that Murray’s cap charge for 2016 is $13 million, the actual cap number is $8 million. The Eagles could chop that in half by trading him, and he’d be off the books for 2017.”
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and NFL.com said after Monday’s news, “Murray's guarantee won't change at all with the Titans, I'm told.”
Titans fans worried about their team paying that money to a running back who struggled in 2015 can take solace in the fact Philadelphia’s offensive line issues likely played a major role.
Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus rated the Dallas offensive line Murray ran behind as the best in the NFL in 2014, while Football Outsiders ranked the Eagles as the 30th-best run-blocking offensive line in 2015.
Of course, the Titans were an abysmal 3-13 last season and finished 20th in Football Outsiders’ rankings, so it’s not all good news for Murray. Still, 20th is an improvement from what he ran behind in 2015, and the 6'0", 217-pounder's ability to pick up additional yards with his power between the tackles could help the overall numbers improve in 2016.
There is also quarterback Marcus Mariota to think about with the addition of Murray.
The former Heisman Trophy winner is only 22 years old and is coming off a productive rookie season that saw him throw for 2,818 yards and 19 touchdowns and add 252 yards and two scores on the ground. However, he was under constant pressure behind an offensive line Football Outsiders ranked as dead last in the league in terms of pass protection.
The Titans were also an abysmal 25th in the NFL in total rushing yards and did little to ease Mariota’s burden. In fact, Antonio Andrews was the only Tennessee running back to post more than 247 yards on the ground when he finished with 520.
Adding a proven playmaker like Murray to the backfield will theoretically help take some of the pressure off Mariota’s shoulders. The quarterback won’t have to do all the work through the air, and opposing defensive lines will have to wait an additional second to pressure Mariota to ensure Murray doesn’t have the ball.
The Titans may not be Super Bowl contenders just because they are adding Murray, but his presence alone will give the offense an additional weapon and accelerate Mariota’s development. The quarterback should have more time to throw in 2016 as the Titans look to close the gap on the rest of the AFC South.