MOBILE, Ala. – Speculation on the Cowboys' priority free agents will abound throughout the offseason, but team owner/general manager Jerry Jones isn't eager to tip his hand.
The season is just more than a week old, but plenty has already been written and said about the futures of Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, the duo of Dallas All-Pros set to become free agents this March.
Jones added his own voice to the fray last week when he said it was "possible," but not "reasonable" to expect the Cowboys to re-sign both players. Having said that, Jones didn't want to further fuel the fire on Tuesday at Senior Bowl practices.
"I wouldn't get into speculating anything about these, and to me that's part of negotiations," he said.
There was some insight, however small, to be gleaned from the conversation, however. Jones was asked about reports that have circulated during the past few weeks that the Cowboys had offered Murray a four-year contract worth $16 million – a contract Murray turned down.
"I wouldn't attest to the accuracy of those reports. The circumstances that those reports sometimes are portrayed can be misleading," he said. "I'm not going to get into what we're doing with these guys, but we certainly felt at the beginning of the season that DeMarco had a longer career than this season with the Cowboys and we hope he still does."
That could depend on how much Murray can command on the free agent market. With 392 carries for 1,845 yards during the regular season, he was the NFL's rushing leader by a wide margin. He added another 44 carries for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys' two playoff games.
"I think it attests to his durability and I think he had overcome a couple of knicked up years and had part of a year of that in college," Jones said. "So I think his durability this year was a real milestone for him. And doesn't surprise me."
The Cowboys could opt to use their franchise tag on Murray, essentially locking him in to a one-year contract worth roughly $9 million. Jones has already said publicly that the Cowboys plan to use their franchise tag on Bryant, provided they can't reach a long-term deal with their star receiver in the coming months.
For his part, Bryant said all the way back in November that he'd be disappointed to be hit with the franchise tag – which should be worth roughly $13 million this year.
"Let me start off by saying that 99 percent of the time the player is disappointed because that means he didn't get a long-term deal done," Jones said. "There's no one that I know that can't understand why a player wants to play with a long-term deal in place."
With their coaching staff secure, the Cowboys' upcoming decisions regarding both Bryant and Murray promise to be the dominant storylines of the offseason.
"They're counting on me, really, to artfully allocate the available dollars we have, every last one of them, and put together the best team that we can," Jones said.