After leading the NFL is rushing yards in 2014 with a monster 1845 yards, Murray limped through 2015 as a new Philadelphia Eagle. His shiny, brand-new five year, $40 million deal last season might be looking like a mistake to his new team. Seen as a replacement for productive LeSean McCoy, Murray fell vastly short of this expectation. He has vocalized wanting to return to Dallas, while the Eagles noted their willingness to hear trade offers. The sticking point: money money money. Murray would have to be unhappy enough with the Eagles to give up guaranteed money (guaranteed $7 million base salary for 2016, and $2 million guaranteed for 2017) in the upcoming seasons. Well, I might be unhappy if I finished a 16 game season with 702 rushing yards, a full 1000 less than last season and around the same total rush yards that I snagged in a year I played only 10 games. Some regression is expected after Murray’s 2014 stats, but this much…was a jolt back to harsh reality for most fantasy owners, fans, and, lastly but most importantly, Murray himself. He saw less carries than his past 2 seasons, sharing touches with Ryan Mathews and Sproles, while also watching the once promising Eagle’s offense fall to shambles. He fared better through the air, and caught 44 passes (good for #14 among RBs) for 322 yards. For fantasy owners though, these ups,downs, and inconsistencies cost them dearly. Murray earned 10+ fantasy points only 6 times and had a valley of a floor– earning one goose egg (.30) and several games between 2-7 points. So, that might make me want to jump ship and head back to a safe harbor, where you know what you’re getting and your role. The 2016 seasons comes with many questions, but let’s take a look at Murray’s past first to see how it might impact his future.
Murray : Past
Although he missed games due to injury in his first two seasons, Murray still snagged 895 rushing yards his rookie year and 663 his sophomore. Receiving approximately 160 carries and around 30 receptions in both 2011 and 2012, he was a solid contributor to Dallas’ offense when he could remain healthy. In 2013 season, Murray exploded for his first 1000+ rushing yard season with 1124, 350 receiving yards, and 10 TDs. He finished as the #8 fantasy RB (standard) and #10 in yardage among NFL RBs. His consistently dominant performance continued behind a sensational offensive line in 2014, with Murray mowing down his opposition week after week. Ending the season with 12, yes 12, 100+ rushing yard games and 13 TDs. DeMarco Murray looked unstoppable. Not even a broken hand could slow him down and he won many a fantasy championship, single-handed, that season (I, was a lucky owner). March 13, 2015 , ESPN drops a bomb. Murray intends to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, NFC East division rival of the Dallas Cowboys (take a look here) and, to add insult to injury, Murray cites not money as his motivation, but that he believes the Eagles “have a great chance to win a SuperBowl”. Ouch. The rest is history, the Cowboys noted their salary cap as the reason they couldn’t keep Murray and he in turn signed a $40 million dollar, five year deal with Philadelphia.
Can you really deny that you wouldn’t want to see Murray back in Dallas? Clearly, Chip Kelly did not know how to use the backfield of weapons at his disposal with Murray mixing in with Mathews and Sproles. In his first head-coaching opportunity, Doug Pederson, former Kansas City offensive coordinator, takes over the reigns of this runaway train after coaching under a dominant Andy Reid. Most are wondering how Pederson will approach this struggling Philly offense, but we know it will be slower than Kelly’s fast-paced tempo. Typically, new coaching means new hope for a team and some definite changes and for Pederson,it is a chance to show the NFL what he can do. Reid is known for having a lot of control over his offense, so Kansas City’s success last year doesn’t necessarily boost him as much as you would think in many critical eyes. However, Pederson has already started to make changes to help with the culture of the team (e.g. getting his staff together and rearranging the physical office space to be more interactive) and reiterated the importance of a “Eagles first” mentality, where players and staff alike “check their egos at the door” and communicate effectively. It certainly doesn’t sound like a harsh dictatorship, which is a good move after reports of team/coaching dysfunction surfaced over the course of Kelly’s tenure. Sources say that Murray’s future lays in Pederson’s hands and the trade would need to be pretty good, given Philly’s potential to lose $13 million in dead cap money if they move Murray. Hmm….
On the other hand, there’s the dream of a Dallas and Murray reunion in 2016 humming through the twitter-sphere. There’s pros and cons to this exchange, if both sides were to entertain it. First, Dallas has the bargaining chip of knowing that Murray is unhappy and most likely is willing to come down on his price (well, he must), if a deal can be struck. Dallas, is looking to make a Super Bowl run this season with Tony Romo under center and could use Murray, as they are relying on injury prone Darren McFadden (and Lance Dunbar, torn ACL) in their backfield. Murray could be the missing piece to putting them back in contention and, ironically, the Cowboys not the Eagles, could be his more likely road to the Super Bowl. Dallas may not want to use cap space on Murray when they need to invest in a back-up QB for post-Romo, other positions, or could get a free agent (like say, Lamar Miller) for cheaper. What is in it for them? I don’t see Murray being traded anywhere outside of Dallas, for the same reasons that Murray wants to return. He knows their offense and knows that he can succeed in it. After a season like 2015, who would blame him? Should Dallas be able to work out a deal with Philly, the Cowboys would be on their way to a strong, bounce-back season. On the flip side, Cowboys can’t hide the train wreck that was their 2015 season, so both parties are unhappy…perhaps this is a match (re)made in heaven? We shall see.