Cowboys DeMarco Roller-Coaster Ends In Philly

IRVING - We've called DeMarco Murray's visit to free agency a 'roller-coaster ride' and at the right price, we hoped the ride would end where it began: In Dallas. Instead, Murray is locking into a deal in Philly that sources tell 105.3 The Fan's Mike Fisher is worth about $8.4 mil annually over five seasons and at least $20 mil guaranteed - a deal the Cowboys were never going to match.

There had been a "significant'' meeting with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, as our Mike Fisher reported on 105.3 The Fan. There had been a phone call placed directly from DeMarco Murray to Eagles coach Chip Kelly. (And it doesn't matter who called whom first. DeMarco called the Eagles. Period. Which is OK.) There have been rumors of courtships in Jacksonville, Arizona, Indy and Oakland.

And all along, there has been Dallas Cowboys management holding tight to its long-standing desire to avoid overpaying the position of running back ... while at the same time hoping there was a way to retain the NFL's 2014 rushing leader and Offensive Player of the Year.

The roller-coaster ride is over. DeMarco is, according to Fish's 105.3 The Fan sources, unbuckling his seat ... in Philadelphia.

"He's joining the Eagles,'' multiple Murray family-and-friend types communicated at just around midnight Thursday as DeMarco flew to Philly.

Arizona and Indy never got serious. Jacksonville's GM said on Wednesday that "nothing is cooking'' -- so that rumored dinner with DeMarco never got cooked, either. The Raiders have a full house with their own Murray and with just-signed Roy Helu. And the Eagles? Well, they just agreed with Ryan Mathews (but could "un-do'' that, in theory) and already employed Sproles, so their backfield is fairly occupied, too.

And yet Fish is reporting that the phone call might've started as a bluff but is no longer just that. And that even the visit might've started as a way to drive up Dallas' offer, but obviously didn't end that way, either.

The Cowboys never wished to go above-and-beyond for Murray, judging him to be a good player who had a great year, and judging the position of running back as one that very rarely merit giving a high-dollar second contract to a guy at or older than 27. That was never an "insult'' to Murray, anymore than it was an "insult'' that dozens of other clubs didn't line up to pay him. Dallas' threshold is/was, our sources say, $6 million a year. Murray's desire was $9 million a year -- a "Jamaal Charles-type'' deal, as we've reported. The Cowboys weren't moving that direction ... the Eagles did, with what Fish reports is a five-year contract guaranteeing Murray at least $20 mil guaranteed and at least $8.4 mil a year ... while taking advantage of a player who, despite the efforts of pals Garrett, Romo, Bryant and Witten to make him feel otherwise, feels disrespected by the Joneses.


As COO Stephen Jones told us, Dallas had a "shop-'til-you-drop'' philosophy here -- with the "drop'' being the hope that an affordable Murray would drop back to Valley Ranch. ... Instead, DeMarco drops to the Eagles. And while there emotion and passion from all sides at this moment, we should ask ourselves two questions:

1) Should we be angry at Cowboys management for opting to avoid paying "star-market-value'' for a good player they think is replaceable?

2) Should we be mad at DeMarco Murray for being told Dallas loves him near $6 mil and Philly loves him near $9 mil ... so he loves the $9 mil back more?

Item by Item

*Dwayne Harris considers himself the NFL’s most versatile special-teamer and now the Giants will pay him that way, luring him away from Dallas with what sources tell us is a five-year, $17.5-million contract.

"Will be taking my talents to the Big Apple,'' Harris tweeted Tuesday, shortly after the NFL's free-agency shopping period opened.

Harris caught just seven passes for 116 yards (with four carries for seven yards). But offense wasn’t his Cowboys forte as much as special-teams play was. He dipped a bit in 2014, averaging 24.7 yards per kick return and 9.2 yards per punt return. But the year before he averaged 30.6 yards per kick return and 12.8 yards per punt return, in addition to perennially being Dallas’ best kick-coverage guy. He also led the Cowboys with 18 special-teams tackles.

Meanwhile ... A couple of days ago we spoke to Justin Durant and despite his impending free agency, he was optimistic about returning to the Dallas Cowboys.

"I'm glad people are interested," The team captain told us. "And hopefully we get it done."

It turns out the "people'' that are most interested are the Atlanta Falcons, who are hiring away Durant after his two seasons in Dallas.

The Cowboys have prioritized the return of Rolando McClain, will get Sean Lee back from injury, have Anthony Hitchens coming off a fine rookie season, and have signed NFL veteran Keith Rivers to a deal.

But Durant was the consummate pro during his time here even as he missed two thirds of last season due to injury. He earned a reputation as a playmaker and was even voted team captain by his mates as he began his second year at Valley Ranch.

*We reported Monday afternoon that agent Tom Condon has no face-to-face meeting scheduled with the Joneses regarding client Dez Bryant's cap-compliance-deadline-beating "Cowboys For Life'' deal. This is not a good thing. We will monitor. Research here for how the Dez deal works.

We reported on Sunday that the "Tyron Trigger'' would happen before cap-compliance time, 3 p.m. Monday. It's done, and now Dallas has about $9 million of room (with Tyson's $8 mil of space created). In addition to DeMarco, Rolando McClain is a priority and Dallas is touching base there.


*The Cowboys are sitting on the Brandon Carr talks right now, likely to re-explore if/when needed.

*The Buccaneers signed Bruce Carter to $20.5-mil deal for four years. Last year Carter recorded 68 tackles with five interceptions. Henry Melton is also signing with Tampa. And Sterling Moore is visiting there.

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