The Dallas Cowboys intend to use the franchise tag on Dez Bryant and work out a long term deal later, but that also means that DeMarco Murray will be allowed to test the waters of the free agent market, which might lead the leading running back in the NFL last season to sign with a different team.
But the NFL is not a league that’s about overpaying running backs, who seem to be the most expendable commodity these days. Murray enjoyed his first healthy season since entering the league in 2011. He led the NFL with 1845 rushing yards (his second consecutive season with 1100 yards or more) and scoring 13 touchdowns. The Cowboys also changed their offensive outlook due to their offensive line, going to the run a lot more than in previous years.
Bryant has caught 88 passes or more for three years in a row, resulting in 1200 yards or more in each season, catching 41 touchdown passes since 2012. With both offensive juggernauts hitting free agency, it was always Bryant that was going to get preference over Murray. Murray is perceived as a good running back, but one who depends more on the quality of his offensive line, which is the perception of must running backs in the league right now.
Bryant? Maybe the best wide receiver in the NFL, producing at an elite level for the last three years and being one of the toughest man to man covers in the league. The franchise tag will be worth $13 million, and Bryant will be the fourth player in Cowboys history to get the tag, following Flozell Adams, Ken Hamlin and Anthony Spencer (twice). If any team wants to sign Bryant to an offer sheet, they’ll have to give up two first round picks for his services.
As for Murray? Jerry Jones has cited past cases of Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek as Cowboys players testing free agency and coming back to the team after not exactly finding what they were looking for. The Cowboys would love to sign Murray, but they don’t want to overpay him with his position supposedly easy to replace with younger, cheaper players if need be. Free agency begins on March 7 with teams allowed to talk to them. They can’t be signed until March 10.