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DeMarco Murray’s early retirement shows why NFL running backs don’t get paid top dollar

Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

On Friday, running back DeMarco Murray made a surprise announcement: he was retiring from the NFL.

Murray confirmed his retirement while making an appearance on NFL Live. 

Many would say that Murray, 30, has a few years left in the tank to contribute to a contending team. However, even after working out for teams during the offseason, no one offered him a contract. This is the sad reality of life as an NFL running back.

Murray had a seven-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans while gaining 9,339 yards from scrimmage and 55 touchdowns. He was also the 2014 NFL Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for more than 1,800 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final year with the Cowboys.

Going into the 2015 offseason, the Cowboys wanted to keep Murray and offered him a four-year, $24 million contract. Murray felt that the Cowboys lowballed him, so he opted to sign with the division rival Eagles for a five-year, $42 million contract with $18 million guaranteed. While the move was great for Murray on a monetary basis, it was a disaster on the field.

In his only year with the Eagles, Murray rushed for 702 yards while making over $9 million. That was something the Eagles couldn’t justify for four more years, so they shipped Murray off to the Titans for a fourth-round pick.

Things started to look up for Murray in Tennessee. In 2016, he rushed for 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns. However, in 2017, Murray set career lows in rushing yards (659) and yards per carry (3.6). The Titans cut Murray in March, saving $6.5 million in cap space.

Though cruel, Murray is the perfect example of why teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers are so reluctant to give a high profile running back like Le’Veon Bell the massive payday he so badly wants (and definitely deserves). The same could be said for the L.A. Rams and Todd Gurley, who is trying to get players to strike for completely guaranteed contracts. Running backs know the average career-span for them is around two-and-a-half years. That is the second shortest career span behind wide receivers, and this is why they want more money. They want to cash in on themselves before their bodies can’t take the punishment of the NFL any longer (they are paid the third-lowest salaries behind kickers and punters).

There is no doubt that Murray’s career arc will have an effect on team looking to pay their star running backs. Outside of Bell and Gurley, the next ones in line for raises are Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette. Depending on how negotiations go with these players and their respective teams, we could see a huge movement of star players changing teams.

Featured image by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

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