At this time, one of the biggest names on the free agent market year this year is going to be DeMarco Murray. Dallas is going to have a hard time signing their number one priority in Dez Bryant, getting more help on defense, AND signing Murray. Murray, who is 26, is coming off his best season in the NFL where he totaled over 2200 yards and 13 touchdowns following up a strong 2014 where he had over 1400 yards and 10 touchdowns. He avoided the injury bug this year which he has not been able to do in the past, and that could lead some teams to think long and hard before signing to him a lucrative long term contract. With over 400 carries, including the playoffs in 2014, he does carry risk for 2015. Make no mistake, he will get paid this offseason, but the team that is paying him will affect his fantasy value.
Fantasy owners everywhere, especially in keeper leagues, are going to have high interest in where he ends up this offseason. Murray was able to sneak up on owners in 2014, as he was not necessarily a first or second round pick in all drafts. Owners had high hopes for him in 2014, but no one expected what they got out of him. The question for owners now is what will 2015 bring? Will they get the injured but good version of previous years or the healthy and dynamic version of 2014? If you are in a keeper league, you probably need to keep him no matter where he ends up, but you might want to temper expectations for 2015 depending on the team.
Here are six teams that I can see making a play for Murray this offseason. I have listed these teams in the order of which I feel would be best for his fantasy value.
The Colts have approximately $30 million in cap space (before the Luck extension is signed). How good could Murray be in this offense? This would be the ideal spot for him to sign, as with this offense, he would score a ton of points. He would have one of the NFL’s best passing games to help keep defenses honest, and his ability to catch the ball would make him even more valuable with Luck, who likes throwing to running backs. Indy has an owner that is not afraid to make a splash, and has no other long term running back options on the roster. Richardson is a bust, and Herron would be better suited as a backup. A move to Indy, would make Murray go off the board with one of the top couple picks in fantasy drafts in 2015.
The Falcons have approximately $24 million in cap space. Steven Jackson has not worked out like Atlanta had hoped for in their backfield. Murray would immediately solve their run game problems as there is no other option on the roster with the upside that he has. The Falcons have work to do on their offensive line, but teamed up with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Roddy White, Murray would make teams respect the Falcons run game. Murray would be a good fit in Atlanta, and would help elevate Matt Ryan’s numbers as well. With the Falcons pass game Murray would put up very good numbers.
The Bills have approximately $28 million in cap space. What is Rex Ryan’s blueprint for winning? Play good defense, run the ball to control the clock, and take pressure off your quarterback. With a good defense in place, Murray would allow the Bills to establish that run game that Ryan is looking for. Both Spiller and Jackson are free agents, and Murray would more than replace both of them. Quarterback is a problem right now in Buffalo, but Murray’s presence would take pressure off whomever they decide to go with. Signing Murray would be great for Ryan, who likes to make headlines, and would immediately legitimize the offense for Buffalo.
The Raiders have approximately $50 million in cap space. The Raiders have a ton of needs, and a proven running back is one of them. Darren McFadden is on his way out, and Latavius Murray showed promise at times, but Demarco Murray would be a huge upgrade to that offense. Oakland has a promising young quarterback, and the line was not as bad as the record indicates, but they seriously lack offensive weapons. Murray would go a long ways to helping that offense turn the corner. With a new coach, and a ton of money to spend, Oakland can overpay Murray to convince him to play there. If they were to add Murray, and a real option on the outside at wide receiver, Oakland could have a much better offense in 2015.
The Jaguars have approximately $36 million in cap space. Another team, as most on this list are, that has a ton of money to spend and a complete lack of options at running back. Toby Gerhart was a bust, and in a small sample Denard Robinson was good, but Murray would be a huge upgrade. Murray would give this team, with a young quarterback and wide receivers, instant credibility on offense, and would help take pressure off of Bortles to be the entire offense. With a real lack of name recognition on the team, and a fan base starving for wins, Murray would be a great signing for Jacksonville both on and off the field. In this offense Murray would touch the ball a ton.
New York Jets
The Jets have approximately $38 million in cap space. Quick – name two offensive weapons on the current Jets roster that are worth starting in fantasy football? Cannot do it? The reason why is that there is not two other options worth starting every week. Murray would change that immediately for the Jets. Chris Ivory was not bad for the Jets in 2014, but is better suited as a backup. Having a reliable running game would help Todd Bowles in his first year, and Murray and Ivory would give him that. Unfortunately, at this time, the Jets are in desperate need of a quarterback. Murray would make the Jets better, but until a reliable quarterback is on the roster, defenses would stack the box on the Jets as they did last year, and beg the Jets to throw on them. He would probably still be able to put up good numbers in this offense, but to expect great numbers every week would probably be wishful thinking.
This column was written by Ryan Thyer. Follow him on Twitter: @BigNoahD05