After leading the NFL in rushing yards and playing in all 16 of his team's regular-season games, DeMarco Murray emerged in 2014 as one of the NFL's best, most reliable running backs. Now, he's heading to the Philadelphia Eagles.
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Murray Agrees to 5-Year Deal with Eagles
Thursday, March 12
The Eagles announced they have agreed to a five-year deal with Murray.
ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen revealed Murray's potential deal with the Eagles is expected to be five years, $42 million with $21 million guaranteed. Schefter also noted, "$18 million for skill and injury. Murray got what Dallas did not expect." NFL Network's Albert Breer clarified those numbers as maximum value.
Per ABC11.com, Murray texted ESPN.com's Todd Archer with the following comment: "It was never about the money in any situation. If it was the money I could've taken that a long time ago on a very high deal. It's about winning a Super Bowl and being fair."
Archer added more insight on the numbers:
According to Breer, the two sides "have a financial agreement in place, per source. So the visit is what's left."
Soon to be former Cowboys teammate Dez Bryant sent out a tweet congratulating Murray: "@DeMarcoMurray I wish you would have stayed but I understand your decision... Congrats bro you deserve it - #offenseMVPoftheyear"
Even Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported Tony Romo's thoughts on the loss of Murray:
According to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Murray holds "no hard feelings" towards the Cowboys.
Schefter pointed out earlier on Thursday that Murray is "en route" to Philadelphia and is expected to sign with the Eagles. He added, "Dallas now calling around for other RBs. Cowboys know they've lost DeMarco Murray to the Eagles."
Schefter later added: "That game is over. You can take it to the bank...He's going to be a Philadelphia Eagle," via Chris Russell of ESPN 980.
As Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson indicated, "The Eagles are bringing in DeMarco Murray with his fiance and agent to get a deal done. Period. This isn't a pump fake. $6 mil per. Watch."
Fox Sports' Mike Fisher also shared that Murray's family has privately admitted, "He's signing [with the] Eagles."
Schefter reported earlier Thursday that Murray was heading to Philadelphia with the intention of signing a deal. He noted that while the Cowboys could still land the running back with a last-second offer, Murray's plan is to sign with the Eagles. ESPN.com added:
Murray personally reached out to Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly on Wednesday morning, expressing his desire to play in Kelly's spread offense and with former Oklahoma roommate and quarterback Sam Bradford, league and team sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen. ...
... The obstacle for Murray signing with the Eagles still would be money, a source said, as Kelly has made it publicly and privately clear the team will be financially prudent in their personnel decisions.
Aside from the contract, the Eagles are most appealing to Murray because of his belief in their chance to win.
According to Robinson, Dallas wants Murray at $5 million a year, whereas Philadelphia could up that price to $6 million considering its salary-cap space. However, Fisher reported that the number coming out of the Cowboys camp reached $6 million.
Fisher reported that Murray's "family is telling people 'He's joining the Eagles' ... Cowboys people aware of this."
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the Cowboys' plan to replace Murray is through the draft.
Albert Breer of NFL.com reported that Kelly is in Philadelphia to meet with Murray, and Geoff Mosher of CSN Philadelphia reported that Schefter said that "Philadelphia has been very serious about courting DeMarco Murray... This is serious business."
Despite reports of the Eagles signing Ryan Mathews, they still have interest in Murray, Schefter reported: "Landing Ryan Mathews does not end Philadelphia's pursuit of Dallas free-agent RB DeMarco Murray. Hardly."
However, Sheil Kapadia of PhillyMag.com notes that no Mathews deal has officially been signed, and things could change.
Murray even reached out to the Eagles personally, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen: "DeMarco Murray renewed Eagles' interest w personal call to Chip Kelly; not just spread offense ran at Oklahoma; Sam Bradford's roommate, too."
Peter Schrager of Fox Sports echoed those sentiments, tweeting, "Sources tell me Eagles are now 'very much' in play in the DeMarco Murray chase. Could be a Dallas-Philly showdown today."
On March 10, Adam Caplan of ESPN reported that the Eagles have interest in signing Murray and that the running back is also intrigued by Philadelphia, via NFL on ESPN.
Cowboys Reportedly Offering Murray $5 Million Per Year, Have No Intention of Increasing
Thursday, March 12
Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports reported that the Cowboys are offering Murray a deal worth $5 million per year and wondered if the Eagles wanted to beat that offer. "Cowboys have no intention of moving off their #DeMarco price, which I'm told is a $6M-a-year threshold," reported Fisher.
Murray's father spoke to Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News about his son's free agency and feelings toward the Cowboys:
Kevin Murray, DeMarco’s father, just talked to his son on the phone a little before 10 a.m. CT. Kevin Murray told The Dallas Morning News that though DeMarco feels “hurt” right now that the Cowboys haven’t made a stronger offer to keep him, his son hasn’t made up his mind yet on where he will play next season.
“My impression from talking to him this morning is that he loves his coach, he loves his teammates and the Dallas fans,” Kevin Murray said, “but he’s just hurt that something hasn’t happened to lure him not to take the trip right now.”
Murray's father also touched on the possibility of the running back returning to Dallas:
Kevin Murray said his son is still wrestling with the decision on where to play next season and “absolutely” he hasn’t closed the door on the Cowboys. Kevin Murray said his son plans to give the Cowboys another chance to make another offer before he makes a final decision.
“He loves the Cowboys and he wishes them well,” Kevin Murray said. “But I don’t feel like his mind is made up. He hasn’t indicated that to me in no kind of way.”
On March 11, Doug Gottlieb of CBS Sports reported that "Murray met in a private room [with] Jason Garrett after [Tuesday's] Mavs game." Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that one team pursuing Murray believes he'll ultimately stay in Dallas.
Murray's interest in the Cowboys has been one of the dominant themes of the offseason thus far.
"DeMarco Murray purged the Cowboys from his twitter profile. All photos, references and connections. I guess he is fed up with not getting $," revealed Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram on March 10. "That moment when you thought free-agent silence with DeMarco Murray might be a good thing for Cowboys and then you realized you were wrong," Hill added.
"Now we know why DeMarco Murray has deleted Cowboys references on his Twitter account: team has not called him since last week, per source," reported Schefter.
However, Hill later reported that owner Jerry Jones is focused on bringing back Murray, and he added: "Jones said they have been in communication with Murray's reps but would not elaborate on negotiations."
Jason Cole of Bleacher Report passed along what he was hearing regarding Murray's talks with the Cowboys and his market around the league:
Florio provided his take on Murray's Twitter profile.
"Cowboys want DeMarco Murray & feeling is mutual, but Dallas is holding tight about not overpaying a RB. He'll have to take less to return," reported Robinson on March 8.
On March 3, Cowboys Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones told Fisher that Murray is going to see what the open market is like and then talk with Dallas afterward. Jones added: "Deep-down, he'd love to stay."
Ed Werder of ESPN reported that the Cowboys will make Murray a "respectable offer." Werder also reported that Dallas hopes Murray will give the team a chance to match any offers to the running back and Werder later reported that Murray is expected to stay in Dallas if the team matches or comes close to offers he receives on the open market.
Raiders 'Still on Outside Looking In' for Murray
Thursday, March 12
John Middlekauff of 957TheGame.com tweeted, "The Raiders wanted DeMarco Murray and were very aggressive financially from what I was told yet they're still on the outside looking in."
On Wednesday, Around The NFL reported the Raiders are "believed to be offering the most money." But they aren't the only team, as Werder reported:
Caplan also reported that the Raiders adding Roy Helu Jr. on Tuesday evening has not impacted the team's pursuit of Murray. Rapoport noted Oakland feels adding Murray would give the team "oomph," despite believing Latavius Murray is a No. 1 running back.
Murray Reportedly Preferred to Join Colts
Wednesday, March 11
"Sources say DeMarco Murray's preference was to join the Colts," Dave Furst of WRTV-6 reported. "Will be interesting to look back as the years go on. Gore vs Murray."
On March 8, ESPN.com's Mike Wells revealed Indianapolis was reportedly not interested in pursuing Murray in free agency.
Jaguars Pushing Hard for Murray, Deal "Not Likely"
Wednesday, March 11
Florio reported on the chances of Murray landing in Jacksonville, saying a deal was "not likely," but that it could change.
Jaguars GM David Caldwell echoed that sentiment and told reporters there hadn't been much action with Murray after he talked to the running back's agent, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.
On March 10, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the Jaguars are in "full-fledged sell mode" after waiting to talk to Murray all day. He added that the Cowboys "almost expect" Murray to leave. Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com later reported that Murray was at Tuesday night's Mavericks-Cavaliers basketball game, which suggests a deal with any team is not on the immediate horizon.
"An opportunity has opened for [the] Jaguars with DeMarco Murray. They want a centerpiece back and could push hard to price [the] Cowboys way out," Yahoo's Charles Robinson reported on March 8.
On March 7, Robinson reported that the Jaguars were likely to miss on Murray, leading them to turn their attention to Julius Thomas. However, Robinson's latest report indicates they could still be in the running.
Buccaneers "Have Had Discussions" About Murray
Tuesday, March 10
"Bucs have had discussions about Cowboys RB Demarco Murray, but I'm told TB fans should not get 'overly excited," about the possibility," reported Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
Conflicting Reports Surround Murray and Cardinals
Tuesday, March 10
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Cardinals are "in the mix" for Murray if he doesn't re-sign with the Cowboys. However, Kent Somers of AZCentral.com reported Murray isn't receiving consideration from the Cardinals.
Murray's Camp 'Confident' He Will Land $8 Million Annually
Monday, March 9
"Sounds like DeMarco Murray's camp is confident there are teams willing to pay $8M per year for his services," Yahoo Sports' Rand Getlin reported.
On March 8, Yahoo's Charles Robinson reported that LeSean McCoy's new contract with the Buffalo Bills is a key talking point regarding Murray's contract negotiations with the Cowboys.
McCoy agreed to a new $40 million contract with Buffalo with $26.5 million guaranteed, per Schefter. According to Robinson, Dallas is "not hyped" that talks with Murray are revolving around that.
Murray to Gauge the Market with Multiple Potential Suitors
Tuesday, March 3
ESPN.com reported that "With quality teams potentially looking for a starting running back, Murray is expecting a 'vigorous' free-agent market—even though that has not recently been the case for running backs."
Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports broke down some estimates and other factors regarding Murray's contract situation, including the following:
The fact no premier running back has signed an extension off of his rookie contract since 2012, when Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Ray Rice and Matt Forte led the way with deals that averaged $8 million to $9 million per year and paid roughly $30 million in the first three years -- money Murray believes he deserves.
On March 2, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport highlighted the Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks as potential suitors for Murray, via Around The NFL. He clarified that Seattle would be interested "if [Marshawn] Lynch does retire."
Chris Simms of Bleacher Report weighed in on the best landing spots for Murray:
Cowboys Brass Comment on Murray
Saturday, Feb. 28
Mark Lane of Fox Sports provided comments from Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, who spoke about Murray's contract situation:
Jones described talks with unrestricted free agent running back DeMarco Murray's agents as "slow" up to this point.
"[Murray] is probably going to, you know, get some peace and see what's out in the market and then we'll talk and see. I do believe deep down he'd love to stay in Dallas."
David Helman of DallasCowboys.com provided comments from Jerry Jones, who weighed in on Murray's contract, saying, "I don't see a number (for a Murray deal), I see a range."
On Feb. 18, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett briefly commented on Murray's durability when asked if he's concerned with his injury history, per Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News:
Chris Wesseling of NFL.com provided more comments from Garrett, who spoke about Murray's importance to the offense:
"I don't like that expression, 'plug another back in there,'" Garrett said, outlining Murray's importance to the Cowboys' offense and the heavy workload shouldered by the Offensive Player of the Year.
While running backs have been devalued over the past half-decade, Garrett stressed that their game-day importance has not been diminished.
"You'll find if you look at it, running backs are important to championship teams," Garrett explained. "The runner does matter."
On Jan. 15, Jones weighed in on his opinion of the star running back's importance to the team.
"Jerry Jones attempts to stay away from talking about DeMarco Murray's free agency, says Cowboys would be better with him than without him," revealed Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News.
Machota later provided more comments from Jones on the prospects of bringing both Murray and Dez Bryant back next year:
On Jan. 13, Wesseling, via Rapoport, reported the Cowboys' current offer to the free-agent-to-be is for only four years and $16 million—a pittance compared to what he'd likely earn on the open market. Murray rushed for an NFL-high 1,845 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, earning his second straight Pro Bowl berth and first All-Pro selection.
The $16 million offer, even despite the fungibility of the running back position, is likely a nonstarter. It's more than any back got on the open market last season, but none of those players had Murray's ceiling or overall resume.
Gurley, Gordon In Cowboys' Plans?
Wednesday, Feb. 18
Hill spoke to Adam Lefkoe of Bleacher Report about the Cowboys' plan if Murray leaves in free agency:
Should Murray Be Vikings' Main Focus?
Monday, Feb. 16
Simms weighed in on whether the Vikings should go after Murray as their main target in free agency:
Murray vs. Jerry Hughes: Whom Should Be Cowboys' No. 1 Priority?
Friday, Feb. 13
Simms discussed the Cowboys' priorities in free agency this offseason, focusing on whether Murray should be a priority over a pass-rusher like Jerry Hughes:
Murray Preaches Patience During Free Agency
Wednesday, Feb. 11
Murray talked about his feelings regarding free agency, according to Hill.
“It’s not about the yards for me,” Murray before a dinner Tuesday at Boardwalk Ferrari, sponsored by Hublot watches. “It’s about winning a Super Bowl. If this place gives me the best chance I’m going to stay here. Winning a Super Bowl means more than anything.”
The running back told the Star-Telegram that he's not stressed heading into free agency:
Murray understands the process but there is no stress. He’s gliding into free agency and is ready to dart through whatever opens up.
“No, not at all. It’s just not (stressful),” Murray said. “I feel like whatever the case may be, if I’m here, think it going be great situation, If it’s going to be somewhere else it’s going to be a great situation Obviously I think they want me here. I want to be here. It’s just finding the … I think, the, you know … just what helps them, what helps me. Things like that. I think both sides want to be here, so I think we’ll see where it goes.”
He also told the Star-Telegram that he's willing to be patient:
He understands why people he should maximize his value on the free agent market because this might be his last bite at the apple, as he turns 27 on Thursday.
“I’m very patient so ... if that’s the process I have to go through then that’s the process I have to go through,” Murray said. “I think you hear that a lot. Everyone’s talking about the devaluing a running back and he’s blah blah blah. I’m 26 and I feel like I haven’t even entered my prime yet so … Like I said, wherever I go next year, I think I’m just getting started and I don’t worry about trying to get the most here, trying to get the there. Obviously it has to be the right opportunity, the right team for me and like I said since Day 1 my goal is to simply win a championship.”
Murray also mentioned that he doesn't think that playing behind the Cowboys' vaunted offensive line was the sole secret of his success.
I mean at the end of the day it’s all about respect and I think different people show their appreciation in different ways. I don’t need a pat on the back. I don’t need someone telling me how good I am on a constant basis and whatnot like that. I understand my value so to speak and I understand what I bring to the table.
On Jan. 29, Murray talked about what he's looking for in free agency on The Dan Patrick Show, according to Machota. Murray told Patrick that he hoped he and Dez Bryant would remain in Dallas but understood that it might not happen. He told Machota as well that the decision wouldn't be based on money, it would be about winning titles.
Murray also discussed the high number of carries he had this season and the impact on his body, via Machota:
On Jan. 21, Murray discussed his impending free agency, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com:
“Those guys know how I am as a person and I understand that business aspect,” Murray told ESPN.com. “I don’t get butt-hurt. I don’t get my feelings hurt. I believe in myself and what I’m capable of doing and whoever it is I’m playing for next year, I know I’m going to make a huge impact.”
The day after the Cowboys’ season ended, Murray would not answer whether he wanted to continue to play for the Cowboys. He answered differently from the Pro Bowl.
“Obviously I love playing with these guys, love playing for Jerry, love playing for Jason [Garrett],” Murray said. “He’s a helluva coach, a helluva guy. The things I’ve learned from him and [Jason Witten] in the four years I’ve been here, I’m very gracious and appreciative of it. If the chips fall that way, I’m excited and would love to come back. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’ll see.”
Murray talked about some of the factors that would go into his decision, according to Archer:
I’ve thought about a lot of things I haven’t told anyone yet, not even my agent or not even my family. You can sit back and look at the pros and cons of many different situations and you think of yourself and think of your family in these situations.
Cowboys Could Target Adrian Peterson to Replace Murray
Wednesday, Jan. 28
Bleacher Report NFL insider Jason Cole reported that Dallas could make a push for Adrian Peterson with DeMarco Murray expected to command such a high salary:
Cole talked about Murray's potential salary on Jan. 23 and noted the star running back could command $10 million in free agency:
Murray's Early Outlook for Free Agency
Tuesday, Jan. 13
While he's often been nicked by injuries during his four-year career, few have ever questioned his effectiveness. Murray has a career average of 4.8 yards per carry and has also developed into a reliable pass-catcher over the last two years.
Keeping him on the field has always been the concern. Murray missed 11 games and parts of many others over his first three seasons. He hadn't played in more than eight consecutive games since his rookie season. With the Cowboys giving him the ball nearly 500 times (postseason included), teams are going to be curious about how his body is holding up.
Murray turned 27 in February, so he can't exactly expect the lengthiest contract on the open market. Teams will probably structure his contract so that it becomes feasible to cut him after the third year at the latest, where Murray will be headed toward the dreaded age-30 season. Contract lengths for running backs have been trending shorter for years. Murray won't be the exception to that rule.
But expecting him to take a deal that would put him on nearly the same plane as Rashad Jennings just isn't realistic. Murray is younger, better and knows this may be the first and only time he really gets to cash in. He can't be blamed for testing the open market and extracting every last cent.
Given the history of large contracts given out to running backs, though, the Cowboys probably can't be blamed for letting him walk either.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.