IRVING, Texas – Seven seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Darren McFadden played for five different head coaches.
Continuity wasn’t exactly something the former first-round running back has experienced since being the No. 4 overall pick in 2008.
But as he joins the Dallas Cowboys today (on Friday), he knows he’ll be viewed as DeMarco Murray’s primary replacement.
But for McFadden, who officially signed a two-year contract worth $5.69 million, the former Arkansas standout is looking for a fresh start.
“I’m very excited to be here. I don’t know if I can express in words how excited I am,” said McFadden. “I always grew up a Cowboys fan, right across the way in Arkansas. I’m excited to get here and mesh with my new teammates and get this thing going. I feel like it’s a fresh start. Being here in Dallas couldn’t be a better place. I look forward to playing with those guys. This is their team. I just want to come in and contribute and help the team.”
McFadden said once Murray signed with the Eagles on Thursday, he knew Dallas would be his top choice.
“For me, I kept up with it,” McFadden said of the free-agent moves. “I let my agent most of it. But I always kept my eye on Dallas. I thought whatever happened with the DeMarco Murray situation, it would have an impact on my situation. I feel like it worked out great.”
McFadden, the Heisman Trophy runner-up in both 2006 and 2007, had met Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a former Arkansas alum, but he said Friday’s visit in Jones’ office was a little different.
“Being able to sit in his office is a dream come true for me,” McFadden said. “To go in there and put my name on that piece of paper and make it official. I loved it.”
And it sounds like McFadden is going to love running behind an offensive line that includes three first-round picks and helped Murray claim the NFL rushing title with a Dallas Cowboys-record 1,845 yards in 2014.
“Demarco did a great job. I loved watching him run,” McFadden said. “The offensive line did a tremendous job opening the holes. As a running back that’s something you love to see. I like to get downhill. That’s the first thing I can see when I look at the film. This offensive line gets in there and opens the holes. Once I get the hole I’m going to hit and get downhill.”
Seven years ago, McFadden wowed the scouts and coaches at the scouting combine in Indy when he ran a blazing 4.33 in the 40.
“A lot of people ask me if I can still run a 4.3,” McFadden said. “I say, ‘any day, just line it up.’”
Whether or not he lines up for the 40 again remains to be seen. But McFadden is going to be lining up in the Cowboys’ backfield in 2014.
And it doesn’t sound like there’s any other place he’d rather be.
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SCOUTING REPORTS: Broaddus, Brugler scouting reports on Darren McFadden – Both Then & Now
IRVING, Texas – With the Dallas Cowboys moving quickly on trying to replace DeMarco Murray, the signing of Darren McFadden is an intriguing one, considering he was once the No. 4 overall player in the draft. In 2008, the Oakland Raiders took the Arkansas standout and after seven seasons, it’s safe to say McFadden didn’t live up to the lofty expectations, having played for a variety of offensive coordinators and head coaches.
So with what he calls a “fresh start” in Dallas, McFadden will now get to prove himself all over again.
Bryan Broaddus and Dane Brugler – provide a pair of McFadden scouting reports. Let’s look first at how Broaddus evaluated McFadden from his most recent season in Oakland.
And following that, Brugler offers up his pre-draft report on McFadden back in 2008.
Broaddus on McFadden:
Games Studied: Oakland vs. San Diego, New England, Buffalo (all in 2014)
- Was an interesting study due to rookie David Carr starting at quarterback. There were plenty of snaps where he faced eight and nine men in the box.
- Thought in those situations he showed physical toughness and competes. The Oakland offensive line did him no favors as well. Snaps where as soon as Carr handed him the ball – he was hit. When he had a chance to get going, he showed initial quickness with acceleration and a burst.
- Can get the ball to the corner and around. Nice runs against the Chargers and Bills doing just that. Able to make the first man miss then apply a stiff arm to finish the run. Will lower his shoulder and take on the tackler. Showed the vision to make the cut when things opened up. Hard downhill runner on the toss sweep against the Chargers.
- Really good lateral agility and change of direction. Did not see him drop a ball that was thrown in his direction. Will check down over the ball and make the catch or work to the outside and adjust to the screen. Was able to adjust to a ball that was high from Carr. Gathered it in and worked up the field.
- Will follow his blockers. Can make the cuts, needs to keep his feet better on contact in the open field. Couple of snaps where if he could have kept his balance, he would have had a larger gain.
- Aware to help on blitz, sees defense and adjusts. Steps up and stays square to handle his man. Stays on feet to work rusher to the outside. Keeps his feet moving on contact. Did cut block one time but that was after a play fake to the outside. Will cut block some on the edge.
- Will protect the ball when he runs inside. Runs better on the edge than he does inside.
- His running style is more elusive than Murray’s. Split time with several backs during the games I studied but has some three down traits.
- Was really surprised of his willingness, technique and finish as a pass blocker.
Dane Brugler’s report on McFadden (2008)
Strengths: Dynamic playmaker…great size/speed combination…rare physical tools…powerful and tough…explosive
Weaknesses: Lean-framed leads to durability concerns…unproven as a pass catcher…ball security has been an issue
- Highly recruited out of high school, McFadden has a rare combination of athleticism, speed and strength. He finished second in the Heisman voting as a sophomore in 2006 and again in 2007. McFadden became the first sophomore to win the Doak Walker Award (Nation’s top running back) and joined Ricky Williams as the only two-time winner, earning the award again in 2007.
- He has a slim frame, but is deceivingly powerful and picks up the tough yards inside. He has outstanding quickness and is explosive up the middle and on the edges. McFadden will wear down at the point of attack.
- He is a hard worker and always trying to get better, according to his coaches. McFadden is a leader and nonstop competitor. He is a dynamic player with the ability to score any time he touches the ball with elusiveness and agility, showing all the physical tools and natural instincts.
- McFadden has good patience and field vision to work gaps. He offers one of the best stiff-arms around and was rarely tackled by the first defender in college. McFadden needs to improve his ball security and hold onto the ball.
- He battled nagging injuries at Arkansas, but nothing serious.
Bottom Line: McFadden leaves Arkansas with several school records, rushing for 1,000+ yards each of the last three years, including 1,830 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns as a junior. He rushed for 100+ yards in 10 games in 2007, including 195 yards at Alabama, 206 yards at LSU and 321 yards vs. South Carolina. McFadden’s production was aided by the Razorbacks gimmicky offense, but opponents knew he was the main weapon and still couldn’t stop him. Although his body type leads to durability concerns, he is one of the most explosive options in the 2008 NFL Draft class and worthy of a mid-first round pick.
40-yard dash: 4.33
10-yard split: 1.51
Bench press: 13
Broad Jump: 10’8”
Short Shuttle: 4.10
3-Cone Drill: 6.86
HEAR FOR YOURSELF:
Roundtable: What to expect from Darren McFadden – Discussion of what newly signed RB Darren McFadden will bring to the Dallas Cowboys offense | Listen/Download
The Fiscal Free-Agency Formula – Moving forward in the Salary Cap era
Fiscal responsibility with the NFL Salary Cap is alive and well at The Ranch.
The Dallas Cowboys did the right thing.
We got a little taste of this last year when the Cowboys, as hard as they had to grit their teeth during the process, cut bait with Miles Austin. Cut bait with DeMarcus Ware. Decided not to pay age with Jason Hatcher after his career year. Did not go throwing big money at other teams’ reject free agents.
Well, they did it again.
They eliminated the emotion, and while some say they drew a line in the sand on negotiations with DeMarco Murray and his agent, why that really was a foxhole in the sand, saying, here is our deal, basically averaging $6 million a year over four years, with like the magic number of $12 million in guaranteed money, and not a penny more.
And unlike those charity function live auctions, when bidders swept up in egotistical winning continually up the ante, the Cowboys just said un-uh. No more, and we don’t care if you’re signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars or NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles. We got to do what we got to do managing our salary cap, and DeMo, you do what you got to do with managing your personal finances, even if that means a Vegas guy, who played his college ball at Oklahoma and spent the next four years here in DFW, now has to move northeast to Philadelphia, pay state and city tax not required in the great state of Texas, put up with winter moving in, oh, in late October, and put up with the most brutal fan base in the NFL.
So hey, five-years, $42 million, with $21 million guaranteed, can’t be too concerned over a division rival team fishing for a quarterback and no wide receiver the caliber of Dez to draw double coverage and a safety out of the box, or shoveling snow in November or the raspy, caustic WIP radio voice of Angelo Cataldi.
Just don’t say it’s “not about the money.” Of course it is. Always was going to be, otherwise Murray would have signed that four-year, $16 million deal he was offered back last year before winning the NFL rushing title with an out-of-nowhere Cowboys franchise record, 1,845 rushing yards.
Money and pride, so let’s not fool ourselves. In fact, after feeling insulted by the Cowboys offer, why that was always going to be a one-way plane ticket to Philadelphia on Thursday since there was no way he could have returned to the Cowboys, even if the Eagles offer only had equaled the Cowboys. Guarantee.
But bravo, Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones. And look, let’s recognize the chance they are taking, but gracious, how much money can they continue to spend on an offense with a salary cap hovering right over their heads while this defense continues to get short-sheeted, ending up the worst in club history in 2013 and, while improving to 19th in the NFL during 2014, still woefully lacking the ability to get to the quarterback. Once again, how many teams out there are willing to spend huge cap hits on a quarterback, running back and wide receiver gobbling up more than a third of the space for just three players?
Look around. Not New England. Not Seattle. Not San Francisco. Uh, not Philadelphia. You saw what New Orleans did, jettisoning Jimmy Graham to Seattle based on Drew Brees’ cap-eating salary and then signing their RB Mark Ingram to a most conservative, four-year, uh, familiar-looking $16 million deal. Not in Green Bay, not for all three. Not in Baltimore. Not the Giants. Arizona had to reduce Larry Fitzgerald’s $$$ to make it work. Not in Denver.
Look, $143.28 million is a real number. If not, if the Cowboys had all the money in the world to spend, Murray would have been re-signed. As a fan you should figure spending Jerry’s money no big deal. Spending Cowboys cap space, a really big deal. Do not forget the $12 million in dead money reducing this year’s cap space or the salary-cap hell of 2000-02 leading to those 5-11 downers.
And why – why – would you bet on a guy finally staying healthy for the first time in his four-year NFL career and having a career year behind one of the very best offensive lines in Cowboys history repeating that year after year after year at age 27 when we have documentation of running-back production decreasing at that age and likely bottoming out by 30? Then what, take the dead-money cap hit the final two or three years?
Even a man from Vegas would think that’s a bad-money bet.
And that the Dallas Cowboys didn’t make that bet with your team’s money should make you shout, and should not surprise you since, if you’ve been following along, heard me say, unfortunately with 27-year-old running backs, treat them like a lease car. Use ‘em up, turn ‘em in and get you another new one.
And please, don’t consider this morning’s signing of Darren McFadden the answer to the void left by Murray’s departure. This is virtually a free look-see at a seven-year veteran running back who will turn 28 in August. Think of it as a possible bridge to the running back future, and a shot at lessening your draft desperation for a brand new one.
Look, it’s a two-year deal laced with only a $200,000 signing bonus. Proverbial chicken feed in the scheme of things. That number does not guarantee McFadden even a spot on the 53-man roster, just an opportunity. He knows that. He’s been around the league, and even operated last year in Oakland on a one-year, $1.75 million deal. And the fact his 2015 base salary is only $900,000, just a skosh more than the $870,000 eighth-year minimum, also does not financially preclude either drafting a running back as high as the first-round this year or even starting who’s ever selected if he’s ready.
After seven mostly-injury-plagued seasons, the former first-round running back from Arkansas is having to gamble on himself, meaning the majority of that initially-reported $5.85 million deal he signed is based on incentives – meaning games on the active 46-man, game-day roster – making his first-year cap hit $1.150 million – close to last season’s Anthony Spencer money and language.
Everyone saw the guy out here at The Ranch earlier today. Looked to be in darn good shape and grateful to have a chance. And remember, in 2014, for the first time in his career McFadden appeared in all 16 games. While his career numbers have never been first-round overwhelming – the Raiders made him the fourth pick in 2008 – how much do you factor in having to play in Oakland, where he went through five head coaches in seven years, with two 8-8 records in 2011 and 2012 the only times the Raiders exceeded five wins in a season during his time.
So the Dallas Cowboys aren’t paying much to kick this tires.
You ought to be shouting about that, too.
Not to sound cold-hearted, it seems as though the careers of the best running backs in Cowboys history have never ended well, aside from the first bell cow, Don Perkins, retiring after the 1968 season. Remember, Calvin Hill set sail for Hawaii and the WFL’s guaranteed money. The Cowboys traded pain-in-the-neck Duane Thomas. Tony Dorsett ended up being traded in 1988 to Denver for what turned out to be a 1989 fifth-round draft choice (DT Jeff Roth who never made the team) since he and Herschel Walker could not seem to harmoniously coexist.
Walker then was traded to Minnesota for a king’s ransom during the middle of the 1989 season. And even Emmitt Smith was cut during the off-season of 2003.
Now Murray . . . unfortunately joining some distinguished company heading out the door, two of those previously mentioned exiled running backs landing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Dorsett and Smith), with Perkins joining the two Hall of Famers in the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
So, what’s new?
Now understood, there is little joy in Cowboysville and likely in the locker room and coaching corridors out here at The Ranch that Murray has left the building. He’s a good back, good, loyal soldier, but not a great one, and when your cap space is skin tight, just not one the Cowboys could afford an average salary of $8.25 million over five years and nearly twice the guarantees.
Too rich for their blood.
It’s great to have the likes of Romo, Dez, Jason Witten, Tyron Smith, two other first-round offensive linemen (Travis Frederick and Zack Martin) and Sean Lee on the team. Great to re-sign Doug Free and Cole Beasley. Want to re-sign Rolando McClain still and maybe pick up a pass rusher. Maybe re-sign Nick Hayden. Just can’t have everything. There is a cap. There must be a budget. Hard choices must be made.
The Dallas Cowboys just made a really, really tough one. But the right one.
Official Statement from Jerry Jones on DeMarco Murray signing with Eagles
Thursday, March 12, 2015 7:00 PM CDT
Statement from Jerry Jones on DeMarco Murray:
We are very grateful to DeMarco Murray for his contributions to the Dallas Cowboys. He is a quality person, a very good football player, and a player that we wanted to keep.
We have great appreciation for his skills, and if there was no salary cap in place, DeMarco would be a Cowboy. This came down to an allocation of dollars within the management of the salary cap.
Obviously there is emotion involved in these decisions, but it is critical that there be must be discipline involved as well. If it were a question of having an open checkbook with no salary cap constraints, we all know things would have worked out differently.
We have recently made significant commitments to top players who are currently on the team, specifically at key positions such as quarterback, left tackle and wide receiver, and we were comfortable with the offer that we made to DeMarco to include him in that structure.
These are difficult decisions that are part of the NFL. They are decisions that take into account the entire team, the current economic structure of the team, and the financial concerns for the short and long term future of the team.
At the end of the day, this is about finding the best way to collectively fit all of the individual pieces together, in terms of talent, offensive players, defensive players and dollars—under the salary cap structure—that gives you the best chance to have a championship team.
YESTERDAY’S NEWS: DeMarco Murray ropes rival for 5-year, $42 million deal
IRVING, Texas – The NFL’s leading rusher in 2014 is changing teams, but not divisions.
DeMarco Murray, who set the Dallas Cowboys single-season rushing record this past season with 1,845 yards, is moving on after signing a five-year deal with the Eagles. Philadelphia is paying Murray more than $21 million guaranteed for a contract worth $42 million.
Murray reportedly called Eagles head coach Chip Kelly directly on Wednesday, and had a flight to Philly scheduled later that evening. Murray met with the Eagles’ brass on Thursday afternoon.
The Cowboys indeed made an offer to Murray in the neighborhood of $6 million per season.
One of the more high-profile unrestricted free agents in the NFL, Murray won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year Award in 2014 for his record-setting year. He became the first player in league history to begin a season with eight straight 100-yard rushing games.
And for the first time in his career, Murray played all 16 games, despite suffering a fractured left hand against the Eagles in Week 15, which required surgery. But he played with the injury six days later and continued his prowess as one of the NFL’s most productive players last season.
The only knock on Murray’s season was a fumbling issue, losing five in the regular season and then one more in the playoffs – a costly fumble against the Packers in the second half.
A third-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2011, Murray leaves the franchise as the sixth-leading rusher with 4,526 yards.
Tony Romo, who was attending the Texas Rangers’ spring training in Surprise, Ariz., expressed his disappointment with the move.
“It just happened,” Romo said. “All the way up until today. I was still thinking we’d be able to keep DeMarco. Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation. I’m losing a close friend, too, so that hurts. We have to trust the process and the people making the decisions. We have salary-cap implications and a bunch of other things that we have to decide. That plays a role. The Eagles obviously thought as highly of him as we did.”
With Murray gone, the Dallas Cowboys will likely turn their attention to the rest of the backs in the free-agent market, which include veterans such as C.J. Spiller (Editors note: signed with New Orleans Saints after this article was originally published last night) and Darren McFadden.
This is also one of the deeper running back classes in the draft, although backs haven’t gone as high in the last couple of years. Not since 2012 has a running back been taken in the first round. However, that could change this year with dynamic players such as Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley, and perhaps Indiana’s Tevin Coleman expected to go off the board on the first night.