IRVING, Texas – The NFL’s leading rusher in 2014 is changing teams, but not divisions.
DeMarco Murray, who set the Cowboys’ single-season rushing record this past season with 1,845 yards, is moving on after signing a five-year deal with the Eagles. Philadelphia is paying Murray more than $21 million guaranteed for a contract worth $42 million.
Murray reportedly called Eagles head coach Chip Kelly directly on Wednesday, and had a flight to Philly scheduled later that evening. Murray met with the Eagles’ brass on Thursday afternoon.
The Cowboys indeed made an offer to Murray in the neighborhood of $6 million per season.
One of the more high-profile unrestricted free agents in the NFL, Murray won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year Award in 2014 for his record-setting year. He became the first player in league history to begin a season with eight straight 100-yard rushing games.
And for the first time in his career, Murray played all 16 games, despite suffering a fractured left hand against the Eagles in Week 15, which required surgery. But he played with the injury six days later and continued his prowess as one of the NFL’s most productive players last season.
The only knock on Murray’s season was a fumbling issue, losing five in the regular season and then one more in the playoffs – a costly fumble against the Packers in the second half.
A third-round draft pick of the Cowboys in 2011, Murray leaves the franchise as the sixth-leading rusher with 4,526 yards.
Tony Romo, who was attending the Texas Rangers' spring training in Surprise, Ariz., expressed his disappointment with the move.
"It just happened," Romo said. "All the way up until today. I was still thinking we'd be able to keep DeMarco. Obviously, it's not an ideal situation. I'm losing a close friend, too, so that hurts. We have to trust the process and the people making the decisions. We have salary-cap implications and a bunch of other things that we have to decide. That plays a role. The Eagles obviously thought as highly of him as we did."
With Murray gone, the Cowboys will likely turn their attention to the rest of the backs in the free-agent market, which include veterans such as C.J. Spiller and Darren McFadden.
This is also one of the deeper running back classes in the draft, although backs haven’t gone as high in the last couple of years. Not since 2012 has a running back been taken in the first round. However, that could change this year with dynamic players such as Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley, and perhaps Indiana’s Tevin Coleman expected to go off the board on the first night.