DeMarco Murray has been the best running back in the NFL this year.
He leads the league in every major rushing category. He has more rushing yards by himself than 27 NFL teams, more rushing attempts than 20 teams, and more rushing touchdowns than 25 teams.
The Cowboys on the most surprising team in the NFL at 6-1.
Murray’s historic season comes at a tough time for the Cowboys. His contract is up at the end of this season, and given his incredible play, he is in line for a giant raise from the $US1.4 million he’s making this year.
The benefits of re-signing Murray are obvious, and Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones has even said he hopes Murray plays well enough this year to warrant a massive new contract from the team.
But signing Murray comes with significant risks.
The Cowboys have to worry about running him into the ground (no pun intended) this season. Murray began the season with an NFL-record seven-straight 100-yard games. But he’s running the ball a ton in the process, which is dangerous given his injury history.
In his three seasons in the NFL, Murray has yet to play all 16 regular season games. He’s had hamstring problems, a torn patella tendon, and a sprained MCL in the NFL, and he was also frequently injured in college. Running backs also tend to age quicker than other players because of all of the hits they take.
If the Cowboys don’t want to give him a long-term deal, they could place the franchise tag on Murray for about $US9.5 million next year. But even that’s a huge commitment to an oft-injured player who’s speeding toward NFL records in carries and rushing yards.
In addition, the Cowboys already have an eye-popping $US137 million committed to next year’s salary cap. Signing Murray would severely limit their ability to improve the roster elsewhere through free agency.
But letting Murray walk also comes with a downside. The Cowboys have been so good this year because they have the best offensive line in the league and an elite running back. Not re-signing Murray would likely force them to either tweak the offence or use a high draft pick on a running back.
Murray’s performance alone deserves to be rewarded, but all of the other factors make it a tough decision for the Cowboys. Given that they’re holding off on contract talks with Dez Bryant until the offseason, Murray will likely have to wait, too. But come the offseason, it could be time for a big decision in Dallas.
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