Cowboys reworking deals pays dividends in locker room

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OXNARD, Calif. -- When the Dallas Cowboys chose not to get in the big-money stakes to retain DeMarco Murray early in free agency, a good many people wondered what that would mean inside the locker room.

Murray led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards and was named the offensive player of the year. He changed the identity of the Cowboys. And he played the same week he had surgery to repair a broken hand, displaying a tremendous amount of toughness.

And yet the Cowboys weren’t moved enough to compete with the Philadelphia Eagles’ offer.

If Murray could do all that, expend that kind of energy and still not gain the reward of a big contract from the Cowboys, what would it mean for players of lesser importance?

Hey, it's a business.

Jerry Jones keeps calling the move on Murray a cap decision. In truth, the Cowboys could have re-signed Murray, retained Dez Bryant with his five-year, $70 million contract and signed Greg Hardy. They could have had it all in 2015, but potentially pay for it down the road.

The Cowboys’ decision was more about the value of a running back. They did not want to tie up that much money to the position, regardless of the individual. They loved Murray, just not enough to give him $21 million guaranteed.

But since the Murray decision, the Cowboys have extended themselves in different ways. Orlando Scandrick did not show up for the start of the offseason program because he wanted a new deal. Jeremy Mincey missed the first four days of training camp because he wanted a new deal.

The Cowboys found common ground with Scandrick on a one-year extension and will increase his 2015 pay from $1.5 million to $4 million. The team bumped Mincey’s base salary from $1.5 million to $2 million in part because he finished less than 1 percent away from earning an escalator last year, but they did not extend his contract.

The Cowboys never really got into serious pay-cut talks with the agent for Brandon Carr. They are comfortable with him counting $12.7 million against the cap in 2015.

“At some point, (the money that didn’t go to Murray) ought to start showing up,” Jones said.

Without a salary cap, you know Jones would have a never-empty wallet. Even under a cap system, the Cowboys do their best to come up with inventive ways to keep or sign players.

Eventually the Bank of Jones will have to close and some player or players will be upset that the organization drew a line. The Cowboys showed a willingness to work with players, but they did not extend themselves against the cap in 2015 or the near future.

Perhaps the Cowboys have opened up the possibility of more players sitting out in order to get their way.

If so, then that’s completely different than what many thought they were doing in March.