PHOENIX – It says a lot about the magnitude of the Greg Hardy signing that it pushed the NFL rushing champion to the back of the conversation.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spoke for 22 minutes during a small media session at the Arizona Biltmore resort on Monday. With all the debate surrounding Hardy, it took 16 minutes before the name "DeMarco Murray" was even uttered.
That's pretty amazing, considering the 2,486 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns Murray accounted for in 18 games last season – even moreso considering it's been just 11 days since he signed with the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
"What he was able to do for our ball club last year was phenomenal. He had a huge impact on the success that we had," Garrett said. "Unfortunately, there is the business of football. We wanted him to be a Cowboy -- not just for this coming year, but for many years to come. But there is a business aspect. He had to do what he felt was right for him and his family, and we had to do what was right for our organization."
What was ultimately right for Murray was the five-year, $42 million contract the Eagles offered him, with $21 million in guaranteed money. The Cowboys felt the right call for the organization – and its salary cap – was to not match such a steep offer.
"Losing a guy like DeMarco, losing a guy like Justin Durant and Bruce Carter, those are hard decisions for us to make," Garrett said. "We like all those guys. We wanted them all back. Those are hard financial decisions to make in the era of the salary cap. We had to do what's best for our team financially. We moved on from those guys."
With Murray moving on, the Cowboys have no shortage of names in the race to replace him – but not much in the way of proven production. In six combined seasons of play, Lance Dunbar, Ryan Williams and Joseph Randle have rushed for roughly half of Murray's 2014 output.
New signee Darren McFadden has 4,247 total rushing yards in seven NFL seasons, but he just finished the first 16-game season of an injury-plagued career.
Whether Murray's heir is one of those four, or a name to be yet to be discovered, is something Garrett is going to determine in the coming months.
"We know we have to have to have a top-notch running back on our football team," he said. "We have a number of different candidates on our roster. There are certainly candidates in the draft."
All of this said, Garrett acknowledged that it can be hard to separate emotion from business. Murray was a third-round pick during Garrett's first draft as head coach, and he developed into an All-Pro – just in time to sign elsewhere.
"A lot of emotion gets tied up into that, but again, you've got to pull back and make the right decisions for your team," Garrett said. "We wish all those guys nothing but the best. We appreciate their service to our team. Now we have to move on."
Moving on won't just mean replacing Murray, though – it will mean facing him twice a year. With the Cowboys and Eagles both primed for playoff contention, Garrett is sure to see the other side of Murray's tough running style.
"That will make it interesting," he said. "But again, the level of respect we have for him is really, really high."