When the Philadelphia Eagles signed DeMarco Murray to a five-year, $40 million deal as a replacement for LeSean McCoy, it was viewed as a win for them.
Murray was coming off a huge season with the Cowboys, leading the league with 1,845 yards rushing to go with 13 touchdowns.
Since the Cowboys didn’t want to pony up for Murray, the Eagles signed him to a fair deal, getting a running back that would seemingly fit Chip Kelly’s preference for a “north-south” runner.
Through 12 games, the signing has turned into a mess. Murray has underwhelmed, proving a terrible fit in Kelly’s offence, and now it seems problems between the two are bubbling to the surface.
ESPN’s Ed Werder reported on Monday that following the Eagles win over the Patriots that saw Murray get benched, Murray talked to Eagles owner Jeff Lurie about frustrations with Kelly.
Werder reported that Murray and Lurie spoke on the team plane, with Murray expressing frustration with the offence and his role. He reportedly didn’t want to be a distraction, so he tried to keep the conversation quiet.
Murray only has 569 rushing yards on the season, and he’s averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per rush attempt. In Week 13 against the Patriots, he ran for only 24 yards on eight carries and eventually got out-carried by Darren Sproles. Murray has only topped 100 rushing yards in a game once this season, and he hasn’t had more than 80 rushing yards in a game since Week 8.
Murray’s struggles have partially come from a reduced offensive line that’s forced him to run laterally instead of vertically. Several times throughout games, Murray gets stopped before making any gains because the defence has already broken through the offensive line. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles’ offensive line is 30th in the NFL in adjusted line yards.
Nonetheless, Murray looks like a bad fit for Kelly’s offence, and as ProFootball Talk’s Mike Florio writes, given that Kelly has personnel control over the Eagles, he must be thinking of what he can do with Murray if there’s a fissure in their relationship.
Cutting Murray doesn’t seem like an option. As Florio notes, it would come at a big expense to the Eagles, and it would damage Kelly’s relationship with players, which already seems to be shaky, as some in the NFL clearly don’t find him trustworthy. Similarly, it would backfire on the Eagles if Murray ended up on a division rival if he went unclaimed on waivers. Florio writes:
Would another team step into the shoes of the Murray deal? With $5 million in signing bonus, a $3 million roster bonus, and most of a $1 million base salary for 2015 already paid, does a $7 million commitment for the stretch run in 2015 plus all of 2016 justify the investment?
Either way, the biggest downside to cutting Murray comes not from the financial side but from the risk that Murray will show up on the roster of a division rival, like the Giants or the Cowboys.
Kelly downplayed the significance of Murray’s meeting with Lurie, saying it was coincidental, but clearly this is turning into a sloppy situation.
Murray went behind his coach’s back to complain to the owner, and with a sizable investment in a disappointing player, the Eagles have somewhat of a mess on their hand. Cutting their biggest offseason acquisition would not only cost money, they run the risk of bad PR while also letting a talented running back slip to another opponent. However, Murray is now also an unhappy, unproductive player, creating the potential for this already messy situation to fester.
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