Eagles Sign DeMarco Murray
The Philadelphia Eagles signed running back DeMarco Murray to a five-year deal worth $42 million, with $21 million guaranteed. The former Cowboy is the NFL’s reigning rushing champion and also led the league in touchdowns last season. He did not receive a competitive offer to return to Dallas, and will instead switch sides in this heated NFC East rivalry.
The 27-year old Murray piled up an NFL-high 392 rushing attempts, and the Cowboys rode him mercilessly as the centerpiece of their ball-control attack. It also qualified as 80 more handoffs than the second-highest total, which was posted by the man he will replace in the Eagles’ backfield, LeSean McCoy.
Fully healthy for the first time in his four-year career, Murray posted 13 touchdowns and 1,845 yards at a 4.7 yards-per-carry clip. He also added 57 catches on 64 targets, for 416 receiving yards. He predictably wore down from the heavy workload over the last seven weeks, which included two playoff games. Murray averaged 4.0 yards per carry in those final seven games, after posting a 5.1 average in his first 11 contests.
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His Elusive Rating, which ranked third during his first 11 games (61.9), dropped to 18th through the rest of the regular season (24.1). His Yards After Contact per Attempt average fell from 2.99 (2nd-best) to 1.74 (22nd), and his Breakaway Percentage went from third-best (34.9) to 17th (29.7).
Murray received PFF’s top rushing grade over his first 11 games (+13.5), and the seventh-best mark during the last five weeks of the season (+3.3). From an efficiency point of view, if not a fantasy standpoint, it’s a good bet that less will be more in 2015.
It appears he will also be reunited with his college teammate at the University of Oklahoma, quarterback Sam Bradford. Head coach Chip Kelly’s breakneck-paced offense mirrors the tempo of the no-huddle attack that the pair ran at Oklahoma. Murray will undoubtedly lose a greater share of running back touches to new backfield mates Darren Sproles and Chris Polk, but the Eagles’ overall pace will make up some of the gap.
Philadelphia ran the most offensive plays in the NFL last season and the Cowboys snapped it the 18th-most. The 113-play difference between the two equated to nearly two extra games worth of snaps. In moving from Dallas to Philadelphia, Murray also goes from running behind PFF’s second-highest graded run blocking unit (+55.7) to its first (+85.7). The Eagles also earned top honors in that category in 2013 (+140.1).
Where his fantasy value will feel a crunch will be in his receptions. Last year he ranked fifth among running backs in targets, and fourth in catches. McCoy lost a large chunk of his passing game share in Sproles’ first season as an Eagle, and it’s fair to expect the same for Murray. McCoy went from 59 targets in 2013, down to 34 last year. It played a large role in his slide from a high-end RB1 to a low-end one. If we assume Murray will shave carries off of his Herculean total from last year, and lose a healthy chunk of his targets – we’re looking at a mid-range RB1 for fantasy purposes.
Murray’s departure from Dallas leaves a huge void, and a prime landing spot for whoever assumes his carries. The Cowboys were a run-committed offense last year and it worked extremely well. Their offensive line does not appear likely to take a step back, and it’s a strong bet that they will add to their backfield in both the draft and from the handful of free agent running backs still on the market.
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