Exploring the Eagles Options with DeMarco Murray

With DeMarco Murray’s unhappiness with the Eagles being the big story Ive been getting a lot of questions about his contract and potential outs for the Eagles. Murray currently has an $8 million cap charge for 2016 and a $9 million cap charge for 2017. I’ll try to outline some of the scenarios here and what would happen on the cap.

Releasing Murray Before the End of 2015

This was a possibility raised by PFT today primarily because Murray would be exposed to waivers. In this situation a waiver claim would essentially be a trade for cash. The Eagles used this strategy (or at least in my mind it was a strategy assuming he still had termination pay rights) when they cut Jason Babin a few years back, but the money was very different in these cases. Babin back then had no future guarantees so a team claiming him would only be responsible for the $1.64M in remaining salary for the season. Murray has $9 million in future guarantees including a $7 million cap charge in 2016. There are also $3 million in injury guarantees.  So this would be an expensive proposition. Continue reading Exploring the Eagles Options with DeMarco Murray »

2015 NFL Stock Down: Week 2

Every week during the season I’ll take a look back at the games and select three players who are entering important stages of their contract that could have hurt their upcoming negotiations with their play on gameday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to his new contract.

Stock Down

Sam Bradford– Bradford has a lot riding on this season with 50% thinking he’s worth borderline starter money and the other 50% thinking he’s worth $17 million a year. Based on Sunday he’ll be lucky to finish the season as starter. Bradford just seemed overcome by the situation of playing in a big game at home, was mistake prone, and couldn’t get anything going all day in a game that they had every chance to win. Continue reading 2015 NFL Stock Down: Week 2 »

DeMarco Murray and the Team Building Strategies of the Cowboys and Eagles

For someone who played quarterback and wide receiver throughout his entire football career, I’ve strangely fallen in love with analyzing the running back since I’ve started writing here. I think part of it is knowing how completely wrong I was on the first article I wrote on Over The Cap and then digging deeper to rectify it led me to really appreciate the complexity of the position during a time where we’ve, wrongfully (myself included at one point), begun to devalue an important position.

In my first article running backs article, I discussed how out of whack the Vikings spending was in 2013, which is true, but which was an outlier compared to league-wide spending at the position. I did have some good points like the incredible value of the Patriots backfield in 2013 compared to the Vikings, and that kind of thinking is something I’ll explore below. I did finish the article with the right idea, what’s the next big trend?

In my second article on the position, I discussed my theory on the running back position being that a team should draft their running backs as that’s the best way to construct a backfield. I argued against signing running backs to multi-year deals in free agency, but as we’ve seen this year, that’s still a tactic that’s in place and, of course, it should be as most great running backs play well until they’re 30 and if you have a chance to get a great running back, you should.

I cited Bill Brandwell’s Grantland article explaining the horrible investments in running back the last few years, but I do think that this year’s class has some young guys with a lot left in the tank like DeMarco Murray, Shane Vereen, Ryan Mathews, and CJ Spiller to name a few. I’m in love with what the Eagles did this offseason, so I am not 100% committed to drafting your backfield because for what Chip Kelly wants his offense to do, he set his team up perfectly. When you look at the percentage of the cap that the Eagles backfield takes up and what Kelly’s 2012 Oregon Ducks running backs did, I see and understand his vision for the 2015 Eagles and it really excites me as an NFL fan, it should be a lot of fun to watch.

In writing Caponomics, I’ve come across a new valuation system that I’m trying to create. It’s very, very simple; I take the amount of yards a player generates and then divide it by their cap percentage, the solution will be the value created per 1% of cap used. I don’t know if it will end up being something we can use, but I do think there’s a major evaluation opportunity in creating a stat for “per 1% of cap.”

I use yards because they’re the simplest statistic we have and in my opinion, you can’t score over the course of 16 games and the playoffs if you don’t move the football on offense. It’s very rudimentary, but for my statistical analysis and valuations, I’m trying to start simple rather than dive into new age stats because I don’t want to distract myself, or you guys, from the salary cap. That’s at the core of what we do here and that’s what I’m better at.

In analyzing quarterbacks, I don’t see a widespread use for a “per 1% of cap” stat against yards because there were about 15 quarterbacks who threw between 3500 and 5000 yards this season. Plus, the value of a quarterback isn’t just in yards, it includes not turning the ball over, managing the offense, elusiveness, escaping sacks, running for first downs, leadership and so much more. Of course, the value of a running back isn’t just in yards, but I feel it could be a large indicator in the value of a running back or a running back group on a team, football teams need to move the ball to win a Super Bowl and, especially late in the season and the playoffs, running backs have consistently been a major part of it.

Football is such a difficult sport to valuate individual players in because it’s the ultimate team sport. A lot of statistical companies are out there trying to find the true value of individual players, which is really critical work and it’s why we’re trying to figure out something to evaluate these individual players against their salaries.

Speaking of Murray, the Cowboys may have given us the best example of how to build an NFL backfield in 2014. When you construct a great offensive line, you have made it so you’re not heavily reliant on one player for your rush offense, but rather a unit where no one player’s injury can completely disintegrate the unit. It’s a kind of risk management and if you have a great, versatile sixth lineman like Mackenzy Bernadeau who the Cowboys had in 2014, then you’ve really decreased your risk.

The new Cowboys under Stephen Jones leadership are much more fiscally responsible than the Jerry Jones Cowboys, something we saw on display this offseason. Rather than chase after Murray at a cap number that they didn’t want him at, they seemed to have stuck to their valuation of him heading into the offseason and let him go to a division rival, which I’m sure wasn’t easy for them. They have since signed Darren McFadden on a very team friendly contract for someone who has shown immense talent, but has been injured too often to invest heavily in. I also see them drafting their long-term solution in a running back rich draft in May, which is, again, a very intelligent move. It’s smart because it takes advantage of their offensive line by saving money at running back.

Football Outsiders have the Cowboys as the NFL leaders with 4.39 adjusted line yards, which is a huge indication that no matter who they put behind them, the running back will be successful. It’s worth noting that the Cowboys were second in their open field rank, but that’s nothing they can’t overcome with a good combination of running backs.

Murray averaged 4.7 yards per carry, Joseph Randle 6.7, and Lance Dunbar 3.4, while my father and I have loved the way Murray runs the ball back to his days at Oklahoma and thought he’d be a big star in the league earlier than 2014, the Cowboys made the right move letting him go considering how cap-strapped they are.

The Cowboys are going to have a top rushing attack with McFadden, Randle and whoever they draft in the early rounds of this years draft. As of now, the Cowboys only have 2.81% of the cap invested in the running back position and it won’t be more than 5% heading into the season even if they draft a running back in the first round, which is a huge cap saver as they’ll get production out of the position that will far exceed the low cost.

Behind that great line in 2014, Murray ran for 1845 yards, while taking up 1.20% of the cap, which means he had a value of 1538 yards per 1% of cap. By comparison, LeSean McCoy took up 7.29% of the cap and his 1319 yards are valued at 181 yards per 1%. By going low-cost at running back, the Cowboys give themselves money to spend elsewhere, while they will still have a great running game because of the great offensive line. By the Eagles getting rid of McCoy, they’ve actually gotten a less expensive and better lead running back this year in Murray, with a deeper backfield to support the offense they want to run.

What we have with the Cowboys letting Murray go and his signing with the Eagles is two teams who both know who they are and have made decisions that will make them both better teams. As I’ve seen in my cap research is that it’s vital that an organization knows who they are and what they need to succeed, this is why the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers and Packers have been so competitive for so long. Every year that I look at their roster, I see the same kind of players on it.

The Cowboys recognized that with a great line, you don’t need to have DeMarco Murray at $5-9 million a season because the line allows you to put just about anyone back there and they’ll run for at least 4 yards a carry, which is about the NFL average. They can spend the money they saved on improving their defense, which they have already by signing Greg Hardy and spending some of that money on offense on well to improve their passing game.

The Eagles are structuring their team a lot like Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams with multiple running backs to throw at you, each of them with their own strengths and another set of fresh legs to run down your tired defense in the fourth quarter with that hurry up offense.

While the Cowboys have realized they don’t need to spend big money on running backs, the Eagles realized they do, but they need to do it with multiple backs like Kelly had at Oregon. Because Oregon is a spread team, so often we forget that they’ve been a dominant rushing team for about a decade because we associate spread offenses with passing the football.

Down the stretch in the three years before Kelly left for the NFL, he had an incredible three-headed attack in the backfield each year. This is what he’s recreated in Philadelphia and it’s a great example of the way that the best organizations are building a roster to what they need.

In 2010, LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and Remene Alston combined for 2638 yards rushing, 345 receiving and 37 total touchdowns. Quarterbacks Darron Thomas and Nate Costa added 624 yards and seven touchdowns, while current Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff added another 214 yards rushing and two touchdowns with an astounding 17.8 yards per on his 12 carries. As a team, they averaged 286.2 yards per game rushing, 3.2 rush touchdowns per game and 5.9 yards per carry.

In 2011, they stepped up with James back carrying the load, but Kenjon Barner, who is currently on the Eagles practice squad almost running for 1000 yards of his own, De’Anthony Thomas was the third back, playing the role Darren Sproles’ in now and was remarkable. Together, the three of them ran for 3339, added another 999 yards receiving and had 49 offensive touchdowns, which are some remarkable statistics from a three-pronged backfield. The team averaged 299.2 yards rushing at 6.7 yards a clip, and 3.0 touchdowns per game. Quarterbacks Thomas and Brian Bennett combined for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Fourth and fifth running backs Tra Carson and Ayele Forde had 400 rushing yards and three touchdowns, just a stacked backfield.

In 2012, Kelly’s last year in Eugene, they had their best year rushing with Barner, Thomas and Byron Marshall totaling 2915 rushing, 715 receiving and 43 offensive touchdowns. It was Mariota who put them over the top with 752 rushing and Bennett added another 165 before transferring to Southeastern Louisiana, they had 11 touchdowns rushing. As a team, they averaged 315 rush yards per game at 6.0 per carry and 3.7 rush touchdowns per game.

While we know Sam Bradford is no running quarterback, I still contend that I wouldn’t put it past Kelly to try to trade into position to draft Mariota, I stand by the fact that when a coach can get the quarterback that he knows he wants to lead them into the future, he has to go out and get him. Considering how Kelly feels about Mariota, I still think he’s going to attempt to get him.

What this rushing attack of Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will allow Kelly to do is have an offense like the one at Oregon, where he can run the no huddle, spread attack offense and just wear you down with a new running back every other play. In the fourth quarter, when your defense is tired, Ryan Mathews will be taking his fifth or sixth carry of the game. They’ve still got depth beyond those three with Chris Polk as the fourth back, which was always used in a Kelly Oregon team.

I keep saying it in articles, but what I see with the analysis I’m doing of past Super Bowl champions and great organizations is that these teams know what they need to succeed. This is why it was so important for Chip Kelly to become the de facto general manager and why the best teams have this same structure with Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick in charge.

Looking at the Patriots, like I said in “The Patriot Way” article I wrote during the season, for years, they’ve been getting the same kinds of players at positions for years now. At running back, there’s always been a pass-catcher like Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, or Shane Vereen and a bigger, more powerful lead back like Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Steven Ridley, and LeGarrette Blount. They’ve always had a short, quick slot player like Troy Brown, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman. And speking of those Patriots running backs, they have the same strategy as Kelly, they’ve just done it less expensively.

The Ravens signing Justin Forsett was the perfect player to back-up Ray Rice and it paid off big-time this season when Rice went down. He was a very similar player to Rice, which means he fits into what the Ravens do as an offense and that’s what you want in a back-up, especially when it’s questionable if the starter is on the downtrend with their career. The Ravens also have had similar players at tight end like going straight from Todd Heap to Dennis Pitta, having physical receivers who can block well like Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, then Steve Smith this year. Drafting CJ Mosley in the first round this year, one year after Ray Lewis’ retirement. Always having fantastic edge rushers.

Ozzie Newsome is one of the best general managers in the league, largely because he’s always worked well with the head coaches he’s had., it helps that he’s a former player for the Browns, a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history.

What happens when you put the right people in charge of these organizations is that they do things that we at Over The Cap get fired up about! It’s exciting to see teams making smart decisions, making moves that make real sense for what has worked for them in the past!

There’s a reason why the Ravens have never had a great WR3, it’s because they don’t need anything more than a Jacoby Jones type player who can do big things in key spots, but isn’t going to give you 1000 yards receiving, that’s not what their offense needs to succeed. There’s a reason Chip Kelly made so many crazy moves the other week because he knew that McCoy wasn’t the guy he wanted at running back and he wanted to go out and get a stable of backs. Now he’s got the best RB from 2014, a first rounder from 2010 who I LOVED coming out of college and has shown flashes when healthy and Sproles who fits the pass-catcher role he needs. By having three backs, he’ll also lessen the load on them, which will allow them to stay healthy and effective longer.

Ozzie Newsome said something very poignant after they let Anquan Boldin go to San Francisco for a sixth rounder after the 2012 season. The Ravens did not plan on going for broke in pursuit of a second straight title in 2013. They were more concerned with remaining competitive for the long-haul, because if you’re in the tournament every year, like Baltimore was from 2008 to 2012, you’re bound to win one eventually.

That’s the attitude great organizations take into every offseason, free agency, the draft and the season. They have created a structure, a plan, and they create a team for the long-haul based on that plan. Rejoice Cowboys and Eagles fans, your organization is acting like great organizations, now you and Giants just get to beat up on each other as three great organizations going up against each other six times a season altogether. The NFC East is going to be a pleasure to watch for the next half decade at minimum.

I wanted to give you guys a heads up to a new podcast from Joe DeFranco of the DeFranco’s Gym at the Onnit Academy! I’m helping him with his “Industrial Strength Show,” and he’ll be having on New York Giants’ great and DeFranco’s Disciple, David Diehl, on the show next week and I wanted to let you guys know to tweet me @ZackMooreNFL or tweet Joe, @DeFrancosGym, with any questions you may have for the New York Giant great and current Fox Broadcaster! Here’s a link to Joe’s podcast if you want to download and subscribe! Last week’s podcast with his father George, hit #1 on the Fitness and Nutrition charts this week!

If you want to purchase The First Annual Caponomics: Understanding NFL Roster Building through Super Bowl Champion Salary Cap Analysis, please e-mail me at Caponomics@gmail.com, so that I can put you on our e-mail list for people interested in purchasing the book. If you join our e-mail list, I will send you the first chapter on the 2014 Lions and then the 2014 Patriots once it’s completed. I might even throw in a bonus Super Bowl champ in. 


I’m currently in the process of getting some legal stuff handled for the book and then I can put the pre-order up on Amazon, otherwise, it would already be up there. Thanks for your support and feel free to send me any questions or ideas to that e-mail address.

Examining the Upcoming Free Agency of DeMarco Murray

The Dallas Cowboys will have an interesting contractual decision on their hands with running back DeMarco Murray. Murray is on pace for a 2,000 yard season, a feat just 6 players have accomplished since 1980. He has become the focal point of a Cowboys offense that has become a throwback to the decade where teams featured one running back and the offense flowed through that player. Set to be a free agent the question is how should the Cowboys approach the contract.

The Running Back Market

There is really only one massive contract for running backs, the contract for Adrian Peterson which averages just over $14 million a season. Prior to receiving that contract Peterson’s top season saw him run for 1,760 yards and he had run for no less than 1,298 yards in a season. Former Titans’ running back Chris Johnson had maxed out at 2,006 yards which also led to a contract worth around $14 million a season. Johnson was released this past year and its likely Peterson will be released following this season.

The secondary tier begins with LeSean McCoy of the Eagles at $9 million a season. McCoy earned his deal following a 1,300 yard season that he combined with contributions in the passing game. Arian Foster earned a similar number based on a 1,600 yard season at the age of 24. Matt Forte ranks third in the tier with $7.6 million a year, bringing an all around game to the table. His max rushing yardage was just over 1,200 yards but he was also consistently adding around 500 receiving yards a season.

Free agency has not been kind to runners who hit the market in the last two years. Chris Johnson and Steven Jackson topped the list at $4 million a season. Those players were considered proven commodities, but with a lot of wear and tear on their bodies. Those figures were nearly matched by completely unproven players Toby Gerhart and Donald Brown at $3.5 million a season.

With Johnson’s big contract void and Peterson’s soon to be, those two data points should be essentially useless for Murray. The secondary tier will likely shrink considerably this offseason as almost every one of those players could be a cap casualty following the season. The Chiefs and Seahawks did give moderate extensions to Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch to make certain they reported to training camp, but neither contract indicated a long term commitment to either player.  Most likely that will be the tier that Murray will look to fit into with the Cowboys.

The question the Cowboys need to ask is should he fit there?

Is Murray’s Dominance Sustainable?

It’s easy to look at Murray’s numbers and say you have to pay him because the risk of losing him is too great and if he goes the offense may go with him. Thus you simply pay him more than the highest paid player, McCoy, at the position. But when you make statements like that you have to try to gain a better understanding of what Murray is expected to do in the future, rather than overpaying for the present.

The reason many teams began to shift away from the runner dependent systems was because of the inability to sustain the big numbers they were put up at a young age. Millions of dollars would be invested in a player only to have the player’s production rapidly fall off a cliff with no possible out for the team due to the cap charges associated with releasing the player.

There are 43 players who began careers in the NFL after 1980 who posted seasons of more than 1,500 rushing yards and continued to play football (Robert Smith retired following his big season).  13 of those players produced a second season of at least 1,500 yards (Arian Foster is could be number 14 this season if his body can hold up). So it would be fair to say that a back that produces 1,500 yards has around a 30% chance of doing it again. Just 8 of the players produced at least a third 1,500 yard season. Here is the breakdown of 1,500 yard rushers’ future performance.

1500 yard rushers

However, there is another factor that should be considered here and that is age. Many of the players on this list produced many of their dominant seasons in their early 20’s. Murray is already 26 years old. Just 10 players had a second season of 1,500 yards at the age of 27 or older. The only players to have at least a third 1,500 yard season at those ages were Barry Sanders and Tiki Barber.  Eric Dickerson was on pace for that type of year in the strike-shortened “scab” season.

There were 21 players in the NFL that had their first 1,500 yard season when they were 26 or older. Of those players just 5 did it again. Those players were Curtis Martin, Larry Johnson, Priest Holmes, Tiki Barber, and Shaun Alexander. I think when you factor age into play you would consider a 23% chance of hitting the 1,500 yard mark one more time and a very small chance (less than 5%) of getting there a third time.

How Many Good Seasons Should Dallas Expect?

For the purpose of this discussion I’ll adjust the 2014 stats and the strike seasons to represent a 16 game season. While we can look at the entire list of 43 players, I think we are better off filtering it down to players who are more representative of Murray’s age. I want to look at players whose first 1,500 yard season came between the ages of 25 and 28 and we want to see how they performed over the next five years of their careers. The reason for the five year period is because this should be the maximum contract length given to any player in the NFL that is not a quarterback.

I think most people have always considered a good season by a running back to be 1,000 or more rushing yards.  We can pretty much bank on Murray having at least one season of 1,000 or more yards. Of the group the only player to not gain 1,000 yards at some point after their first 1,500 yard season was Maurice Jones-Drew (McCoy is on pace to do so this season).

Getting a second 1,000 yard season might be more difficult. Of the 24 names who have had a second shot at 1,000 yards only 11 actually produced them. So there is less than a 50% chance that we can plan on Murray being able to give us two years of 1,000 yard production.

It gets bleaker after that. If we look at three years of 1,000 yard production we get Curtis Martin and Fred Taylor. Martin joined the 1,500 yard club when he was 28 years old while Taylor did it at 27. The only player to produce 1,000 yards four times after attaining his first 1,500 yard season in his mid 20’s was Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bettis was a plodder of a back and averaged around 3.8 yards per carry in most of those seasons. It is unlikely that any other team in the NFL would have given him the attempts needed to reach that number.

1000 yard rushers

When can those seasons be expected?

This is also an important question because it gives us some idea of perhaps how best to structure a contract to build in our optimum exit points. Here is the performance breakdown of the set of players used above in the five years following their 1,500 yard season.

1500yard rusher breakdown

What this tells me is that if Murray is to have another great season it is most likely going to happen in 2015. There is a 40% chance that he is going to come in at over 1,200 yards(a majority of those seasons are over 1,300 yards) and a 68% chance I’ll get over 1,000 yards from him.

In 2016 and 2017 the odds begin to move out of Murray’s favor. We have around a 15% chance of the great season and around 40% chance of just having a good season. Most likely if he is to have a second 1,000 yard year it will come in 2016 with a decline in 2017.

2018 and 2019 are not years where we would really consider Murray an asset. The odds are strongly against another 1,000 yard season  and the odds are strongly in the favor of producing less than 600 yards. At that age he could be unproductive or simply looking to retire from the wear and tear on his body.

Setting the Price

I want to work from the bottom up with Murray, so the first thing I want to do is determine how much I will guarantee him upon signing his contract. Based on the performance of past players I want to look at a 3 year value for Murray, which is going to equal the guarantee I offer him on a 5 year contract. The guarantee is the most important part of the deal because it will define much of the structure since I need to have years 4 and 5 be completely escapable with a reasonable dead money total.

For each tier of yardage I’ll set a price based on past salaries. Normally I would go in year by year and use different values(contract structures are often a waterfall with the largest payments coming in year 1 and gradual reductions throughout), but for illustration I will just use one value per yardage category.

I will value a 1,600 yard season at $14 million, which is the top of the market even though that may not exist anymore. The 1,200 yard season I will factor in at $10.5 million a year, representing a raise from the current McCoy/Foster 3 year value levels of $10M to account for the increase in salary cap. A 1,000 yard season I’ll consider being worth $5 million, based on the Johnson and Jackson deals and between 800 and 999 yards being worth $3.5 million, which is around what teams will pay for the lower level talent. The next category has limited benefit so we will call that $1.5 million and for less than 400 yards I will only use $450,000, the average cost of a rookie the next three years.

If we multiply each percentage by the salary we get the following chart:

1500 yard rusher salary

$14.5 million is what I would call my reasonable price to guarantee Murray based on my three year expectation level.  I feel like I should be ok with that figure given the projected performance. That number alone is not going to get a contract done which is why I would only use it to set my guarantee. In general a full guarantee at the position should represent about 46% of the total contract value. So my offer to Murray is going to need to be somewhere in the vicinity of $31.5 million over 5 years.

If I factor in the 2018 and 2019 seasons I can bring my guarantee up to about $16.5 million. I would raise the amount guaranteed at that point to 48% and call it a $35 million contract. So I would be working between $31.5 and $35 million over 5 years. I would not go over that under any circumstance, and really anything above the $31 million I would probably walk away from. I’d likely consider 70% of the three year value to be guaranteed and I would raise that to 75% if I elected for the higher contract value, which is similar to what the Bears did with Forte a few years ago.

There are tons of cap possibilities with the contract depending on tolerance for cap hits in 2015 and 2016 versus the expected release date of 2017 and virtually guaranteed release date of 2018. Here would be a potential structure of the $31.5 million contract:

1500 yard contract breakdown

In this contract Murray receives a $5 million signing bonus, fully guaranteed 2015 salary and a partially guaranteed salary in 2016. In 2017 the cost to walk away is low enough that I can do that if necessary. My hope in the contract is that we can get two good seasons out of Murray. If I get one 1,200 yard season (preferably in 2015) and then a 1,000 yard year the following season I pretty much made my money back. I can then choose to chase a dream in 2017 or just release him.

The other course of action is to simply apply the franchise tag to Murray next year. The franchise tag will probably be in the ballpark of $10.5 million, which is similar to the cash value I had above in the first contract year. While that may be overpaying, I know that the best chance I have with him for another strong year is in 2015. He has a 40% chance of 1,200 or more yards and that is worth the salary if he gets there.

The important thing with the tag is I make no long term commitment to Murray if I use it.  If he does great then I get value. If he flounders I can negotiate a deal on my terms or just let him walk. Because of the way the position breaks down, the team will almost always have leverage negotiating with a running back. The longer I push off that contract the better off I can be.  I don’t think the tag is unreasonable in this case especially if his camp refuses to budge off a $9 million or so a year annual value, even if its unlikely to be found in free agency.

The Importance of the Contract

I find this contract to be a very important one to the future of the position. Most of the current contracts in that $7-9 million dollar range will be gone next year. It would not be shocking if the only player remaining in that tier is Jonathan Stewart of the Panthers who signed a ridiculous contract a few years back. If a 2,000 yard runner can’t break through and push past that figure it really means a very negative outlook on the position over the next 4 years. The running backs really need Murray to somehow break the bank on this contract even though there is no logical reason for the Cowboys or any other team to do that.

Most like the position needs younger entrants in the draft if it is to financially bounce back. They need the 21 year old underclassman to enter the draft, ala Clinton Portis a few years back, and reach that potential right out of the gates. At the most they would be 25 when getting a new contract and most likely just 24. Teams might give in more in those situations than they are now.

The only player on the horizon right now who could fit that bill is Le’Veon Bell of the Steelers. While he did not come out with the monster year he is on pace for close to 1,500 yards this season. He is just 22 years old.  If the Steelers can keep him going and limit the amount they use LeGarrette Blount, Bell can be the guy after the 2015/16 season to try to re-ignite the position. But that will be infinitely harder if he is working off lower rather than higher numbers set by Murray.

NFL Stock Up: Week 4


Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

DeMarco Murray– Something tells me he is going to be here every week as every week Murray seems to raise the bar for himself. Murray is by far the best running back in the NFL and just shredding defenses along the way. With the RB market more or less in disarray Murray has a big chance to stabilize it and maintain it over the next 5 years by reaching  for a $7-$8M a year contract.

Eddie Royal– Eddie Royal is putting together quite the nice little season in San Diego. He added two touchdowns and another 100 yards to his resume. In the last two years Royal has put up, by far, the best numbers since his rookie season back in 2008. As always its buyer beware with Royal, but he is one of the important pieces of the Chargers offense.

Brandon Flowers– A late pickup after the Chiefs decided they did not want him, Flowers had to settle for a one year contract with the Chargers in hopes of proving that he is worth a long term contract somewhere in 2015. Flowers has had a great year and is currently graded highest among corners by Pro Football Focus. His interception in the third quarter pretty much ended any hopes of a Jaguars comeback. He only allowed one receiving yard on the day.


New Contract Player Of The Week

JJ Watt– What a dominating performance by Watt who is doing everything in his power to make everyone forget how much he recently got paid by the Houston Texans. At this rate nobody is going to ever bring up his salary he has been so good. Watt was credited with a ridiculous 14 pressures and made life miserable on Bills overwhelmed QB EJ Manual. Watt’s play where he plucked the pass out of the air and returned it for a touchdown is a play only one man in the NFL can make. You wont see that duplicated this year.


NFL Stock Up: Week 2


Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

Philip Rivers– The old guard from the 2004 draft are all entering contract periods where extensions are on the horizon and Rivers sure stated his case on Sunday as he tore up the vaunted Seahawks defense for 284 yards on over 75%completion percentage. Rivers turnaround from where he was two years ago, when he looked finished, is pretty remarkable. He’s fearless and you knew he would challenge the Seahawks this week but nobody expected this kind of performance.

DeMarco Murray– Murray had a bad fumble on Sunday but finished the day with 29 carries for 167 yards. The Cowboys are no stranger to paying big money for top talent and it almost looks as if we are seeing a changing of the guard in Dallas. Tony Romo does not look like the same player and Jason Witten has been MIA for two weeks. If Dallas is going to enter a transition period in which Romo becomes the game manager, Murray is going to benefit with big dollar signs.

Ryan Kerrigan– I don’t care that it was against the Jaguars, 4 sacks in a game is an incredible accomplishment. Kerrigan has his option picked up for next season, but with teams wisely locking up player inn the 2011 draft class he is putting himself in a great position for a new deal. Hes been incredibly steady since entering the NFL and should set a new career high in sacks this year following this game. With JJ Watt and Robert Quinn getting massive extensions, the payscale is rising for players that can rush the passer and Kerrigan should benefit.


New Contract Player Of The Week

Ted Ginn– I know it’s a strange position to take for this distinction, but in watching that game Ginn’s touchdown return changed the whole game. New York had taken control of the game, despite their mistakes, and seemed like they were wearing down the banged up Cardinals. Ginn’s return took the air out of the Giants and the Cardinals players even alluded to that after the game insinuating that the Giants were mentally beaten. You can’t have much more impact than that.