People criticized the Eagles for trading LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso because Alonso isn’t as good of a player as McCoy is. However, two weeks later, the Eagles have found their replacement for McCoy, giving DeMarco Murray a 5-year, 40 million dollar deal with 21 million guaranteed, similar to the extension that McCoy signed upon being traded to the Bills. If you assume Murray and McCoy are equal, all the Eagles really did was sign Kiko Alonso to a 2-year, 1.7 million dollar deal, which is an outrageous bargain. It’s not hard to find a replacement for McCoy when you have all that money freed up by trading him away. It is, however, very, very difficult to find talented 25-year-old middle linebackers available for pennies on the open market.
However, that’s just more evidence that the McCoy/Alonso trade was a brilliant move by the Eagles. Everything the Eagles have done since then has been pretty head scratching and that includes this trade for Murray. Murray was the NFL’s rushing leader last season, but this is a massive overpay. I wrote in my Cowboys off-season preview that Murray was one of the top candidates to be overpaid this off-season and that he should come with a buyer beware label on his forehead, for a variety of reasons.
For one, since 1988, only 4 of 26 running backs who led the league in carries surpassed their rushing yards total the following season. Those 26 backs averaged 365 carries per season, rushed for 1612 yards, and scored 14 touchdowns in the season they led the league in carries. The following season, they averaged 262 carries per season, rushed for 1053 yards, and scored 8 touchdowns. Murray already saw his YPC drop from 5.14 in the first 8 games of the season to 4.23 in the final 8. There’s a reason backs are rarely given more than 350 carries, as teams don’t want to ruin that player for the following season. The Cowboys knew Murray wasn’t coming back in 2015 though so they didn’t care. They offered him a mere 4-year, 16 million dollar deal this off-season.
Murray has an injury history dating back to his collegiate days too. He made it through all 16 games in 2014 (not without a broken hand), but he missed 11 games in first 3 seasons and fell to the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Draft because of injury concerns. Even if Murray stays healthy in 2015, he’s highly unlikely to even come within 50 carries of his 2014 total, a problem as his 4.71 YPC in 2014 was good, but not outstanding or anything. He got to 1800 yards on volume largely. He also was helped out drastically by the Cowboys offensive line, as the Cowboys were Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked team in run blocking grade. Going into the season, I thought DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews were similar players, guys with every down back potential, but significant injury histories. Obviously, they had very different 2014s, as Mathews missed a significant amount of time with injury, while Murray finally stayed healthy and led the NFL in rushing, but there’s no reason Murray should get this kind of money, while Mathews got 11.5 million over 3 years.