Eatman: With Marinelli Running Defense, Paying More For Murray Makes Sense

IRVING, Texas – The first year I actually covered free agency for the Cowboys, this team lost a veteran quarterback to a division rival.

Who knew I'd still be around when that guy came back to become the Cowboys' head coach. But that year in 2000, Jason Garrett, Randall Godfrey and Eric Bjornson were going to other teams.

Now, it could be the NFL's leading rusher and reigning Offensive Player of the Year.

I'll have to admit, this is something that is rather unique to me, and really all teams. When do you see the team's most productive offensive player on the street without a contract once free agency rolls around? Better yet, when have seen that happen with the Cowboys?

But this part of some new things we haven't seen around Valley Ranch in some time. We never thought DeMarcus Ware would be cut one year after becoming the franchise's all-time sack leader. We never thought Jerry Jones could pass up on a player like Johnny Manziel, knowing his veteran quarterback was coming off his second back surgery in two years.

So things are a little different around here these days and that's not a bad thing.

And who knows about Murray. Maybe the Cowboys are playing this thing just right and he'll back at an affordable price.

But saying all that, I think I would make sure Murray remains on this team in 2015. And the reason for that is simple – Rod Marinelli.

Yeah, that makes sense, right? The defensive coordinator is the reason you re-sign your running back.

Well, think about it. The offense was really good last year and Murray was one of the biggest reasons. He is the best option you have on third-and-1. He's the best pass protector for Tony Romo. He's the best pass-catcher out of the backfield. And he's the best at breaking tackles in the open field.

Murray does it all and I've never been one to think just anyone could come in here and run behind this line.

Yeah, you see Joseph Randle break off a few long runs now and then but that's a fresh backup late in the game. Let's see him do it 25 times in a game before we say it's all about the line and not Murray.

So I'd make sure I keep Murray, even if it's a little more than you want to spend. Whatever you have to overspend there, you can make up for it on defense, and the reason is Marinelli.

The Cowboys might not land the best free agent, but they will get someone, and that someone will contributor.

Who wanted George Selvie when the Cowboys signed him off the street in training camp two years ago? No one.

Who wanted Nick Hayden in free agency that same year? Who wanted Jeremy Mincey from the Broncos last year? Who wanted to sign Anthony Spencer?

Who wanted Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round? Who wanted Rolando McClain at all? Who wanted Justin Durant from free agency two years ago? Who wanted to re-sign Sterling Moore when he was out of football for half the season in 2013?

No one wanted these guys, except for the Cowboys. And yet, the Cowboys had them all working together to build a solid defense.

Yes solid, not great. Now this defense can get better and I think the draft is the way to go.

But Marinelli has proven that he can  take whatever you give him and come up with a unit that can be effective, especially with this offense on the other side.

So you want to get Murray for about $6 million per season but if it costs you $7 million and lose out on getting Durant back or maybe Selvie or Spencer, I would go for it.

Keep that offense in place. This team, more importantly the coordinator, can figure it out on defense, finding yet another player or three that no one else seems to want.

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