Jerry Jones: Keeping Bryant and Murray will be a 'challenge'
IRVING, Texas (AP) The question of DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant staying in Dallas could end up a tough choice between the NFL rushing leader or the league's highest-scoring receiver.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seems to be leaning the fiscally responsible way.
''Let me put it like this: It's going to be a challenge,'' Jones said of re-signing both of Dallas' biggest potential free agents. ''But is it - you use the word `financially reasonable' - no. Is it possible? Yes.''
There was a time in Jones' quarter century of owning the Cowboys that anything was possible with his biggest stars, even in the salary-cap era. This isn't the same Jones, who showed it last year by releasing franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware to clear cap space even though the Cowboys didn't have anyone close to such a dynamic pass rusher.
''If you just look at it from the standpoint of dollars and cents, it probably doesn't look reasonable,'' Jones said Thursday when he announced new contracts for coach Jason Garrett, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and newly promoted offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. ''At the end of the day, you do realize it's going to be costly to have both those players.''
Bryant led the NFL with 16 touchdowns receiving, and has the most in the league going back to 2011. His touchdown total has increased every season.
Murray was the league's runaway leader with 1,845 yards rushing and broke all-time NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith's franchise record from 1995. He played with a broken hand to complete a full season for the first time in his four-year career.
''We want to do everything we can to keep this group together, help this group get better and take that next step,'' Garrett said.
He recounted the story of former coach and TV analyst John Madden reacting to Derek Jeter's memorable backhand flip that played a key role in the New York Yankees winning a playoff series against Oakland more than a decade ago.
''They were talking about Derek Jeter, and Madden said `Jeter is one of those guys who you pick first and decide what game you're playing next,''' Garrett said. ''I think about that really every day. That's a really important concept for our organization - the idea that you want these guys here, whether they're coaches, players.''
Since Jones said it would be ''going too far'' to suggest that both players are gone, the issue could be which player to keep. The Cowboys can use the franchise tag on one of them, and it would be more expensive on Bryant, perhaps by as much as $5 million.
But Dallas could use the tag to buy more time to negotiate a long-term deal with Bryant, who turned down an offer before the 2014 season started. He has since joined Jay Z's Roc Nation, with agent Tom Condon leading his team.
With Murray's looming free agency, the debate all season was whether another serviceable back could do the same thing behind a young offensive line considered one of the league's best.
The three first-round picks from the past four years - left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin - all made the Pro Bowl, and Martin was the first Dallas rookie to make All-Pro since Calvin Hill in 1969.
The Cowboys aren't expected to pick up the $9 million option on defensive tackle Henry Melton's contract, and cornerback Brandon Carr's $12 million cap hit makes him a likely candidate for a pay cut or a release after he didn't have an interception for the first time in his career.
No matter how much wiggle room Jones and the front office can create, he simply doesn't sound like the same owner who was hamstrung by cap problems when he tried to keep his Super Bowl teams intact in the late 1990s.
''You remember when that cap makes you poor and you wake up and have those days when you don't have the money and don't have the flexibility,'' Jones said. ''That dream was out the window, and there you were paying the bills on it.''
A couple of big bills are coming due, if Jones decides he wants to pay them.
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