Eagles swing for the fences in signing DeMarco Murray away from Cowboys
Few weeks in NFL off-season history can match the Eagles' recent Chip Kelly-created chaos, which opened with LeSean McCoy being traded to Buffalo. Since then, both Frank Gore and Ryan Mathews have been penciled in temporarily as Kelly's new No. 1 back.
The wheel may finally come to a stop Thursday, with DeMarco Murray reportedly set to sign a contract in Philadelphia. ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported the deal will be worth $42 million over five years ($21 million guaranteed).
Murray spent last season carrying the Cowboys to the playoffs with a remarkable 392 regular-season carries for 1,845 yards. He added in another 416 yards on 57 receptions and scored 13 touchdowns, all enough to earn him Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Dallas, though, opted to use its franchise tag on WR Dez Bryant. Coach Jason Garrett then hinted at last month's combine that the front office would be willing to move on without Murray in the backfield.
"The runner isn’t the only one who is part of running the football. Controlling the line of scrimmage is big," Garrett said. "We’ve made a lot of organizational emphasis over the last few years to use our resources to shore up that offensive line. I think that’s paid dividends for us. But the runner does matter."
On paper, adding a RB of Murray's skill level—and proven production—into Kelly's offense has tantalizing possibilities. McCoy rushed for a combined 2,900 yards during his two season with Kelly, and Kelly still apparently determined he was not an ideal fit for the spread attack.
Another athletic offensive line awaits Murray, who had the benefit of playing behind Dallas's dominant front. Also now apart of Philadelphia's offense is QB Sam Bradford, Murray's former teammate and roommate at Oklahoma.
All that said, this is just the latest chapter in Kelly's drastic and ongoing personnel rewrite, so everyone's left guessing as to how it will work. Seemingly without so much as blinking, Kelly has swapped out his quarterback (Nick Foles), running back (McCoy), top receiver (Jeremy Maclin, with that replacement TBD), plus added multiple players in the secondary.
Murray's production also will be compared to that of Gore throughout the 2015 season. Gore and the Eagles reportedly had a deal in place, only for Gore to reverse course and sign with the Colts. Mathews then made his way to Philadelphia, where he may yet sign.
Most of the carries for 2015, however, will belong to Murray—provided he can hold up after the Cowboys ran him into the ground last year.
This could be utter brilliance or a complete failure, so let's drop in somewhere close to the middle. Even if his 2014 stats are unsustainable, Murray is a top-five back in the NFL. And he will be joining an offense that rewards backs who are decisive and versatile, of which he is both.
The flip side is that the Eagles went against the grain by handing over serious cash to a running back with a lot of miles on the odometer. The 2014 season was the first year in which Murray stayed on the field for all 16 games. There is also growing evidence that committing substantial money to a RB headed into his late-20s is a risky proposition these days. Twenty-one million bucks guaranteed is a huge chunk of change.
Kelly did strike a blow to his division rival with this move, subtracting Murray from the Dallas offense. Ironically, the Eagles actually had more success than any team other than Indianapolis in slowing Murray last season, twice holding him to fewer than 100 yards during the regular season. (Murray still scored three touchdowns in those games.)
Either all of Kelly's moves will mesh together in harmony and the Eagles will be contenders or his regime will go bottoms-up. Murray is the latest high-risk, high-reward swing for the fences.