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Spagnola: For What It's Worth, Cowboys Did Right Thing Letting Murray Walk

IRVING, Texas – So in the end, when all was said and done by the Dallas Cowboys concerning DeMarco Murray, for some reason these 1959 Isley Brother lyrics came to mind:

You know you make me wanna (Shout!)
Kick my heels up and (Shout!)
Throw my hands up and (Shout!)
Throw my head back and (Shout!)
Come on now (Shout!)

Shout to everyone, that fiscal responsibility is alive and well here at The Ranch.

You should have wanted to shout, too. Maybe twist and shout, too.

Gosh darn it, the Cowboys did the right thing.

We got a little taste of this last year when the Cowboys, as hard as they had to grit their teeth during the process, cut bait with Miles Austin. Cut bait with DeMarcus Ware. Decided not to pay age with Jason Hatcher after his career year. Did not go throwing big money at other teams' reject free agents.

Well, they did it again.

They eliminated the emotion, and while some say they drew a line in the sand on negotiations with Murray and his agent, why that really was a foxhole in the sand, saying, here is our deal, basically averaging $6 million a year over four years, with like the magic number of $12 million in guaranteed money, and not a penny more.

And unlike those charity function live auctions, when bidders swept up in egotistical winning continually up the ante, the Cowboys just said un-uh. No more, and we don't care if you're signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars or NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles. We got to do what we got to do managing our salary cap, and DeMo, you do what you got to do with managing your personal finances, even if that means a Vegas guy, who played his college ball at Oklahoma and spent the next four years here in DFW, now has to move northeast to Philadelphia, pay state and city tax not required in the great state of Texas, put up with winter moving in, oh, in late October, and put up with the most brutal fan base in the NFL.

So hey, five-years, $42 million, with $21 million guaranteed, can't be too concerned over a team fishing for a quarterback and no wide receiver the caliber of Dez to draw double coverage and a safety out of the box, or shoveling snow in November or the raspy, caustic WIP radio voice of Angelo Cataldi.

Just don't say it's "not about the money." Of course it is. Always was going to be, otherwise Murray would have signed that four-year, $16 million deal he was offered back last year before winning the NFL rushing title with an out-of-nowhere Cowboys franchise record, 1,845 rushing yards.

Money and pride, so let's not fool ourselves. In fact, after feeling insulted by the Cowboys offer, why that was always going to be a one-way plane ticket to Philadelphia on Thursday since there was no way he could have returned to the Cowboys, even if the Eagles offer only had equaled the Cowboys. Guarantee.

But bravo, Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones. And look, I do recognize the chance they are taking, but gracious, how much money can they continue to spend on an offense with a salary cap hovering right over their heads while this defense continues to get short-sheeted, ending up the worst in club history in 2013 and, while improving to 19th in the NFL during 2014, still woefully lacking the ability to get to the quarterback. And I'll say it again, how many teams out there are willing to spend huge cap hits on a quarterback, running  back AND wide receiver gobbling up more than a third of the space for just three players?

Look around. Not New England. Not Seattle. Not San Francisco. Uh, not Philadelphia. You saw what New Orleans did, jettisoning Jimmy Graham to Seattle based on Drew Brees' cap-eating salary and then signing their RB Mark Ingram to a most conservative, four-year, uh, familiar-looking $16 million deal. Not in Green Bay, not for all three. Not in Baltimore. Not the Giants. Arizona had to reduce Larry Fitzgerald's $$$ to make it work. Not in Denver.

Look, $143.28 million is a real number. If not, if the Cowboys had all the money in the world to spend, Murray would have been re-signed. See, I've always said, as a fan you should figure spending Jerry's money, no big deal. Spending Cowboys cap space, a really big deal. Do not forget the $12 million in dead money reducing this year's cap space or the salary-cap hell of 2000-02 leading to those 5-11 downers.

And why – why – would you bet on a guy finally staying healthy for the first time in his four-year NFL career and having a career year behind one of the very best offensive lines in Cowboys history repeating that year after year after year at age 27 when we have documentation of running-back production decreasing at that age and likely bottoming out by 30? Then what, take the dead-money cap hit the final two or three years?

Even a man from Vegas would think that's a bad-money bet.

And that the Cowboys didn't make that bet with your team's money should make you shout, and should not surprise you since, if you've been following along, heard me say, unfortunately with 27-year-old running backs, treat them like a lease car. Use 'em up, turn 'em in and get you another new one.

And please, don't consider Friday morning's signing of Darren McFadden the answer to the void left by Murray's departure. This is virtually a free look-see at a seven-year veteran running back who will turn 28 in August. Think of it as a possible bridge to the running back future, and a shot at lessening your draft desperation for a brand new one.

Look, it's a two-year deal laced with only a $200,000 signing bonus. Proverbial chicken feed in the scheme of things. That number does not guarantee McFadden even a spot on the 53-man roster, just an opportunity. He knows that. He's been around the league, and even operated last year in Oakland on a one-year, $1.75 million deal. And the fact his 2015 base salary is only $900,000, just a skosh more than the $870,000 eighth-year minimum, also does not financially preclude either drafting a running back as high as the first-round this year or even starting who's ever selected if he's ready.

After seven mostly-injury-plagued seasons, the former first-round running back from Arkansas is having to gamble on himself, meaning the majority of that initially-reported $5.85 million deal he signed is based on incentives – meaning games on the active 46-man, game-day roster – making his first-year cap hit $1.150 million – close to last season's Anthony Spencer money and language.

Hey, saw the guy out here at The Ranch on Friday. Looked to be in darn good shape and grateful to have a chance. And remember, in 2014, for the first time in his career McFadden appeared in all 16 games. While his career numbers have never been first-round overwhelming – the Raiders made him the fourth pick in 2008 – how much do you factor in having to play in Oakland, where he went through five head coaches in seven years, with two 8-8 records in 2011 and 2012 the only times the Raiders exceeded five wins in a season during his time.

So the Cowboys aren't paying much to kick this tire.

You ought to be shouting about that, too.

You know, not to sound cold-hearted, and you know I'm not, seems as though the careers of the best running backs in Cowboys history have never ended well, aside from the first bell cow, Don Perkins, retiring after the 1968 season. Remember, Calvin Hill set sail for Hawaii and the WFL's guaranteed money. The Cowboys traded pain-in-the-neck Duane Thomas. Tony Dorsett ended up being traded in 1988 to Denver for what turned out to be a 1989 fifth-round draft choice (DT Jeff Roth who never made the team) since he and Herschel Walker could not seem to harmoniously coexist.

Walker then was traded to Minnesota for a king's ransom during the middle of the 1989 season. And even Emmitt Smith was cut during the off-season of 2003.

Now Murray . . . unfortunately joining some distinguished company heading out the door, two of those previously mentioned exiled running backs landing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Dorsett and Smith), with Perkins joining the two Hall of Famers in the Cowboys Ring of Honor.

So, what's new?

Now understood, there is little joy in Cowboysville and likely in the locker room and coaching corridors out here at The Ranch that Murray has left the building. He's a good back, good, loyal soldier, but not a great one, and when your cap space is skin tight, just not one the Cowboys could afford an average salary of $8.25 million over five years and nearly twice the guarantees.

Too rich for their blood.

Hey, it's great to have the likes of Romo, Dez, Jason Witten, Tyron Smith, two other first-round offensive linemen (Travis Frederick and Zack Martin) and Sean Lee on the team. Great to re-sign Doug Free and Cole Beasley. Want to re-sign Rolando McClain still and maybe pick up a pass rusher. Maybe re-sign Nick Hayden. Just can't have everything. There is a cap. There must be a budget. Hard choices must be made.

The Cowboys just made a really, really tough one. But the right one.

And for that, come on now, shout.

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