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Cowboys hold line on DeMarco Murray, but at what cost?

IRVING, Texas – DeMarco Murray will be a Philadelphia Eagle?

Find the decision for the Eagles to sign Murray strange if you want, but it severely hurts the Dallas Cowboys.

The Eagles traded LeSean McCoy for a linebacker (Kiko Alonso) coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament and looked to be replacing him with Ryan Mathews, who has never played a full season because of injuries but had agreed to a deal.

Now they are about to add Murray, who played his first full season of his career last year and led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards. And they already had Darren Sproles on the roster. Chip Kelly is an offensive mastermind (ahem) so if anybody can figure it out, he can.

Maybe he will bring back the single wing.

While there may be some questions about how this works in Philadelphia, especially if Mathews stays, the Cowboys have lost what Jason Garrett called their heartbeat.

Murray’s running along with the offensive line changed the Cowboys’ identity in 2014. They had been searching high and low for it in Garrett’s tenure and finally found it.

The Cowboys held the fort on what they thought Murray’s price should be and didn’t budge enough to make him want to stay. They cast their lot with the offensive line over the running back.

Now they have to go get a running back. Or two.

Joseph Randle has shown flashes of ability but also immaturity off the field that make his roster spot no sure thing. Lance Dunbar is a third-down back. Ryan Williams is a former second-round pick (hooray) with five games of experience in the last four seasons and an 2.8 yard-per-carry average (boo).

Sources said Tuesday the Cowboys would not play the free-agent market right now to find Murray’s replacement. They would likely lean on the running-back heavy draft and go with a committee approach in 2015.

Even if Murray had returned, it would have been foolish to expect him to run for 1,845 yards since that had never been done before in a franchise that has had two Hall of Fame backs in Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett.

But the production from the running game could remain the same with Murray getting fewer carries and more from his backups.

The Cowboys held their line, which can be looked at as admirable by some or foolish by others, but they never imagined they would have to play against him twice a year.