DeMarco Murray is retiring after seven seasons, the former NFL rushing champion and Offensive Player of the Year announced Friday on ESPN.
Murray, 30, managed a career-low 659 rushing yards with the Titans in 2017, one year after pacing the AFC and ranking third in the NFL with 1,287 in his debut season in Tennessee.
A third-round pick by the Cowboys in 2011, Murray won the league rushing title in 2014, his final year in Dallas, when he was named Offensive Player of the Year for his herculean effort that included 449 touches for 2,261 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns. That workhorse output included 392 carries — the most by any back since Larry Johnson carried it 416 times in 2006.
Murray parlayed his banner campaign into a lucrative five-year deal to remain in the NFC East with Philadelphia, but he was traded to Tennessee after only one season.
If this is indeed it for Murray — he told ESPN’s Adam Schefter as recently as last week that he hoped to sign with a club in training camp — he’ll hang them up with 7,174 rushing yards and 49 touchdowns on 1,604 carries (4.5 YPC), in addition to 307-2,165-6 receiving. With NFL clubs continuing to trend toward RBBC (running back by committee) backfields, he’ll likely also be the author of one of the NFL’s last great workhorse campaigns.
In the seven years between Johnson’s and Murray’s heavy-lifting seasons, no back tallied more than 376 carries (Falcons RB Michael Turner in 2008), and the league leader in rush attempts averaged 343. Over the past three seasons, the leader finished with 327 (Adrian Peterson), 322 (Ezekiel Elliott) and 321 (Le’Veon Bell).
Although the impetus for this trend is mostly NFL clubs trying to keep their studs fresher and healthier, and many will chalk up his record-breaking year to Dallas’ O-line, Murray deserves credit for his outstanding versatility and progress forged during his NFL career. Remember, the former Oklahoma back entered the league with durability concerns and missed a combined 11 games in his first three seasons before his 2014 dominance. Murray again proved the doubters wrong with his bounce-back year in Nashville in 2015, and in missing only three games with injuries over his final three seasons.
Of the eight players ahead of Murray on the NFL’s active rushing list, only four — Jonathan Stewart, Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore — are currently signed, while Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson still hope to latch on with clubs in 2018.