Running back DeMarco Murray couldn't get the money he wanted in Dallas, so the NFL's leading rusher in 2014 signed a free-agent deal with the Eagles.
NFL Nation Cowboys reporter Todd Archer and Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan look at the move and its repercussions on both sides of the divide.
Was there a winner in this DeMarco Murray affair? And if so, who was it?
Archer: It might have been strange how the Eagles got there with Frank Gore backing out, but to me, the Eagles have won here. They improved their running game and they weakened a division foe. I think too many people get caught up in the five years, $42 million number for Murray. It's more the first three years of the deal that matter most. I'm not saying the Cowboys should have gone to $21 million guaranteed, but I think they could have gotten this deal done with Murray for $16 million to $18 million guaranteed before the Eagles got into this. I know we are all supposed to say running backs are devalued and you can find a back anywhere, but I do think the Cowboys are underestimating Murray's worth to the team's mindset. You can't put a number on that. Now they have to stop him two times a year. He's a guy who runs angry anyway, but he will be even more angry in those games, I’m sure.
Sheridan: I'd have to give a slight edge to the Eagles on this one. I thought Chip Kelly had underestimated the value of LeSean McCoy in trading the franchise's all-time rushing leader to the Buffalo Bills. But by replacing McCoy with Murray, Kelly certainly made sure there won't be much, or any, drop-off for the Eagles. And while the Cowboys' offensive line was a big reason for Murray's success in 2014, it definitely weakened the Cowboys to see him walk away. If the Cowboys draft a running back, then that's one other hole that won't get filled. So either way, the Cowboys are weaker without Murray. The Eagles aren't necessarily dramatically better replacing McCoy with Murray, but the knock on the Cowboys tips the scale in Philly's favor.
Murray said he was mostly motivated by the chance to win a Super Bowl, implying the Eagles are closer to one than the Cowboys. Is he right? And since the road to an NFC East title for either team goes through the other, where do the Eagles and Cowboys stand right now?
Archer: This is where I have a hard time understanding the mindset of some Cowboys fans who like to chuckle, "The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, so how does he think he's getting to one with Philly?" So just because the Cowboys last won a Super Bowl in 1995, they will win one again? I don’t get that, but that's me. At the risk of contradicting myself from the first answer, I think the Cowboys still have the better chance to get to the big game, but I'm not sure either team has a great chance. If we're looking at the offenses right now, the Cowboys are better than the Eagles even without Murray. Why? The quarterback. Tony Romo is far, far, far better than Sam Bradford, if he’s the Eagles' guy right now. Romo also has Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and that offensive line. I realize the Eagles added pieces to their defense, but I'm not sold Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso are top-end players.
Sheridan: The Cowboys were ahead of the Eagles in 2014 and, assuming they add more than Darren McFadden in their backfield, they will retain that advantage until the Eagles prove otherwise. I would take the Cowboys' defense over the Eagles' right now. I would take Romo over Bradford, although Bradford has a lot more future ahead of him. I would take Bryant over -- well, I don’t even know who to identify as the Eagles' best receiver right now. Maybe a first-round pick. The Eagles' three-game losing streak in December caused their stock to drop quite a bit. They will have to prove themselves as an improved team this season, and right now, that's a giant question mark.
McCoy won the NFL rushing title in 2013. Murray won it in 2014. Which team is better able to win it in 2015?
Archer: Boy, this is a tough one because right now the Cowboys runners are McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams. The Eagles counter with Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Advantage, Eagles. I'd give the advantage to the Cowboys for the offensive line. And I'd look for the Cowboys to add a runner early in the draft with a Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley or Tevin Coleman type. I'd say the answer right now would be the Eagles. The answer a little later might be the Cowboys. But I do think Murray's team-record 392 carries is safe for a good spell. The Cowboys will be going to a committee approach without him, and the coaches swear they will remain committed to the run even though Murray won't be in the backfield. So they'll hope to get their 2,000 yards on the ground from a number of players rather than most of the yards from just one guy.
Sheridan: I would say the Eagles if their 2013-14 offensive line was coming back intact. With Murray running through the holes McCoy had in 2013, I would give them the edge over a question mark running behind the Cowboys' line. But with the release of Todd Herremans and the apparent intention to trade Evan Mathis, the Eagles have a hole at both guard spots. Without knowing how those will be filled in, I'd have to give the edge to the Cowboys' dominant line, plus whatever rookie running back is lined up behind it. The Eagles are also looking to divide the workload among Murray, Mathews and Sproles, so I doubt any one back will rush for more than 1,500 yards.