DeMarco Murray’s scheduled visit to the Miami Dolphins training facility on Monday comes with a very significant caveat, according to folks familiar with the team’s plan: Don’t expect anything to get done if the player wants big money.
The Dolphins are interested in Murray. But they’re not that interested in Murray that they’re willing to get involved in a bidding war with other teams for his services, per sources.
So maybe Murray joins the Dolphins based on his desire to be in South Florida and play for coach Adam Gase and not pay a state income tax and all those neat things.
But if he’s coming to strike the best possible deal against whatever other deal he has lined up -- he’s visited Detroit and Seattle but the Lions already signed LaGarrette Blount -- then it’s not going to work.
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Suppose, however, the Dolphins can somehow outbid the Seahawks, who are in full blown rebuild mode. Suppose they add the big-name running back.
What will they have done? I mean, aside from adding a player who gained 3.6 yards per carry for the Tennessee Titans in 2017?
They got older.
Murray is 30 years old. And while 30 years old is not old in some sports circles and can even be acceptable in professional football at some positions, Murray is a running back.
And a 30-year-old running back who has been with three different teams raises red flags.
But that’s not a problem for the Dolphins because since free agency began last Wednesday they ...
Signed 32-year-old Josh Sitton as the starting left guard to replace 30-year-old Ted Larsen they had last year...
Traded for 30-year-old Daniel Kilgore (31 in December) as the starting center to replace the 28-year-old Mike Pouncey they had last year ...
Signed 32-year-old Danny Amendola as the starting slot receiver (he’ll be 33 in November) to replace 24-year-old Jarvis Landry they had last year.
(The Dolphins also signed 25-year-old Albert Wilson as slot receiver so aging at slot shouldn’t be held against them. But that doesn’t change the fact the wide receiver room will be way older in 2018).
And I’m kind of scratching my head because adding good players is a goal of the offseason. And adding better players is a goal of the offseason. And adding better leaders is a goal of the offseason.
But adding old players should not be a goal of the offseason.
And adding a handful of old players is eyebrow raising.
Because older players break down more often.
Because older players come set in their ways and are harder to mold.
Because older players typically have played their best games already and aren’t likely to give you their career highlight moments.
Yes, there are exceptions to these concerns. Brett Favre played great for Minnesota after he left Green Bay. Jerry Rice gave the Oakland Raiders some great performances after leaving San Francisco.
But, sadly, there are more Bruce Smiths and Deion Sanders and Joe Namaths and O.J. Simpsons looking like shadows of themselves once they got into their 30s than there are fairy tale stories of old thoroughbreds galloping to victory one last time.
And here’s the thing: The exceptions are, well, exceptions.
But the Dolphins this offseason have added one exception after another. And now they’re visiting with and interested in signing another one.
Bill Parcells, the father of football quips, once said that you can draft or sign an exception every once in a while. But if you draft or sign enough exceptions eventually what you have is a team of exceptions.
A team of exceptions doesn’t typically succeed.
It’s either too small, or too slow, or too dumb, or too old in too many places and so it gets exposed.
Look, I can understand the Miami desire to get Sitton. He was a move to upgrade the position and the team’s culture. So I can understand making that age exception.
I kind of sort of understand the Kilgore move because Mike Pouncey’s hips make him as much an injury risk at 28 or 29 years old as a 31-year-old.
But we’re no longer talking about a guy here or there.
We’re talking guy after guy after guy the Dolphins are looking at.
Didn’t they learn from the Lawrence Timmons lesson last season? Timmons, you’ll recall, joined the team at age 31 and with a ton of snaps on his resume. And he played like he was carrying the weight of the world on dead legs in November and December.
It was as if his athleticism fell off a table and he couldn’t get it back.
That is what happens to players when they get old, folks.
Another thing that happens is they get injured. The statistical probability of a player over 30 getting injured is much higher than that of a player under 30.
And for an offensive lineman over 30 the numbers are staggering.
Older guys who crash into other guys for a living simply have a harder time playing 16 games.
And what are the Dolphins doing this coming season? Banking on multiple older guys at all three interior offensive line spots -- Sitton, Kilgore, and Larsen possibly at right guard.
This kind of thing sets the team and fans up for failure and frustration. That comes because when the older guys are healthy, the line will look good. And then, oh noes, the old guys get hurt and suddenly the line becomes a turnstile unless the backups play like stars.
Who possibly could have predicted this?
What. A. Surprise.
Look, last year neither Matt Moore (33) nor Jay Cutler (34) were available to play 16 games. Jermon Bushrod (33) was done for the season by mid November. Nate Allen (30) was lost the final game in October. Koa Misi (30) never made it onto the field. William Hayes (32) was done for the season by mid November.
Did I mention the Dolphins last week re-signed Hayes? He’ll be 33 in May.
I talk to some Dolphins folks and I can tell they think I’m off base in believing age should be a major factor when considering free agent signings.
Me? I’m wondering why 26-year-old Orleans Darkwa isn’t a free agent option at running back but 30-year-old Murray is getting a visit?
Is it money? I doubt it because Darkwa is almost definitely cheaper.
It is because Murray is better? Well, I admit Murray is better known -- especially to Dolphins fans.
He was the running back the Dolphins passed up back in the day in order to trade up and draft Daniel Thomas. He’s been a fine player, particularly in 2013 and 2014 in Dallas. He was also productive in 2016 with Tennessee.
But better known doesn’t mean better. Last year Murray gained 3.6 yards per carry. His 659 rushing yards were 27th in the NFL.
Darkwa, a find for the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2014, last year gained 4.4 yards per carry. His 751 rushing yards were 23rd in the NFL.
I don’t doubt Murray is perhaps a good locker room guy. I don’t doubt he might be a slightly better pass-catcher.
The thing is I have doubts he’ll be around in late November or December. Because by then, the violence of the game often catches up with players his age.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero