Oakland Raiders: Re-Signing Latavius Murray Should Be A No-Brainer

Sep 25, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) carries the ball to score a touchdown during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) carries the ball to score a touchdown during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders offense looks rejuvenated and is putting up some big points – Latavius Murray is a big part of that revival and re-signing him should be a no-brainer.

Without a doubt, the Oakland Raiders haven’t had an offense as prolific as the current unit in a long, long time. Not since the days Rich Gannon and Tim Brown were patrolling the field. Oakland’s offense currently slots in as the league’s twelfth best with 370 yards per game. They’re also the eighth best scoring unit, putting up just over 26 points per contest.

And this is a unit that seems to have plenty of upside, meaning they have the potential to be even better.

While a lot of the attention focuses on quarterback Derek Carr and his dynamic duo of receivers, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree – and rightly so – as well as an outstanding offensive line, it’s the presence of a legitimate running game that helps this offensive unit excel.

In 2015, Oakland’s running attack was pretty much non-existent. Latavius Murray shouldered the load with his 266 carries – among the league leaders. But he had no help behind him. Taiwan Jones and Roy Helu Jr. combined for 110 yards on 33 carries. Combined. Oakland’s second-leading rusher last season was Carr, who had more yards (138) on just as many carries as Helu and Jones.

With stats like that, it’s no wonder Oakland’s run game was a hot mess, ranking twenty-eighth in the league overall. And as a direct result, the offense as a whole stagnated, checking in as the twenty-fourth best overall unit in the league.

Without the presence of a legitimate ground game, teams were able to focus on stopping Carr and his talented tandem of receivers.

Yet, things are different this season. Murray has some help in the backfield in rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. The three-headed beast in Oakland’s backfield has quietly come alive and helped ignite this offense as a whole.With Murray, Richard, and Washington – and the occasional dose of Jamize Olawale – Oakland’s offense is soaring.

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But that starts with a strong rushing attack – and that starts with having Murray on the field.

And yet, despite that, there are plenty of people out there who have started discussing the reasons why Oakland should move on from Murray after this season.

Murray’s rookie deal is ending after this season and there are some, amazingly enough, content to let him walk away. By their logic, cheaper is better and the Raiders would do better to draft a stud running back while letting Washington and Richard handle the bulk of the carries until he is ready.

Of course, some of these are the same people who continue to insist that Matt McGloin has far more upside than Carr, so take it for what it’s worth.

But to be fair, let’s hear them out. They insist that backs like Christian McCaffrey, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Royce Freeman, or Nick Chubb would constitute an upgrade over Murray. And of course, the fact that they would come with a cheaper price tag.

Oakland Raiders
Oct 2, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) runs for yardage against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /

As if the landscape of the NFL isn’t littered with the carcasses of “can’t miss” prospects who – well – missed. Not every running back you draft is going to be an Ezekiel Elliott or an Adrian Peterson.

For every one of those, you have a dozen Melvin Gordon‘s – prospects with a lot of hype but not a lot of production to back it up.

Even Todd Gurley of the LA Rams, the back who took the league by storm last season with his 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns is struggling a bit this season. His 403 yards on the season puts him on pace to finish with just over 900 yards for the year – still not a bad season, all things considered, but most certainly not elite.

The point here is that drafting a running back with the idea that they’ll step right in and your team will suffer no drop off in production is foolhardy. At best. It could happen, but there is zero guarantee of it.

The other question that needs to be asked is, if you let Murray walk so you can draft a Fournette or a McCaffrey and they aren’t quite NFL-ready, what then? Sure, you have Richard and Washington already under contract, but they’ve shown that they’re better in a situational role rather than being the team’s bellcow.

Consider – in two games without Murray as he recovered from injury, Oakland’s running backs combined for just 153 yards. With Murray back in the lineup last week, the trio nearly eclipsed that (144 yards against Jacksonville).

With Murray in the lineup, the Raiders are averaging just over 130 yards on the ground per game. Without him, they’re averaging just over 76.

But statistics aside, having Murray in the lineup has helped allow Oakland’s offense as a whole to thrive. With Murray in the lineup, Oakland’s offense puts up 383 yards and 28 points per game. Without Murray, the Raiders put up 337 yards and 22 points per game.

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  • While some people might write off the almost 50 yards per game difference, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the Raiders are scoring almost a touchdown better with him in the lineup.

    Of course, the biggest reason it seems that some people would rather see Murray leave town comes down to dollars and cents.

    With Murray’s rookie deal expiring, so too does the great value they got with it. Proponents of letting Murray walk seem to believe that the smarter move would be not re-signing him and adding a cheaper option in the backfield.

    And then what – hope for the best?

    As we’ve already seen, Oakland’s offense is a better, more high powered unit with Murray in the lineup. When you bring in a rookie, you’re rolling the dice. They could be great. They could be terrible. Murray is a known quantity, he knows this system, and more importantly, he’s already shown that he can excel in this system – and the offense responds better with him in it.

    According to Sportrac estimates, Murray’s estimated value on his next deal should be somewhere in the neighborhood of $12.4 million dollars over four years. That works out to what, $3 million dollars and change year? At current salary levels, that would make Murray around the twentieth highest paid running back in the league.

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    Let’s not get it twisted here – it’s a nice bump in pay for Murray, but it’s nowhere near elite level money. And with the Raiders having an estimated $42 million dollars of room under the cap in 2017, Murray would still be a highly affordable investment.

    Continuity is one of the keys to the success of a team. Retaining Murray, on what amounts to a very modest deal, would keep the core of the offense intact and help them continue to grow and thrive.

    Last year, in his first year as Oakland’s featured back, Murray responded with a very solid season. His 1,066 yards made him the sixth best running back in the league. And he was rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl for his efforts.

    And he did that without a lick of help in the backfield.

    Now that he has genuine help in Washington and Richard, Murray is showing how valuable he is to the health of the offense as a whole. He’s running better, stronger, and with more power than he has at any other point in his career.

    He may not be putting up eye-popping numbers, but his value as one component to this offense is undeniable. He has the combination of size, speed, and strength that make him the perfect complement to scat-backs like Richard and Washington. And together, the three are making magic in Oakland’s backfield.

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    Despite offenses going more and more pass heavy and making fantasy team owners ecstatic, you can’t win in this league without a legitimate running game. Murray helps give the Raiders that. Letting him walk to save what amounts to a couple of million bucks, at the potential expense of the solid running game that’s developing is beyond foolish.

    Re-signing Latavius Murray is a no-brainer. The risk of not doing so far outweighs the money you’d save by drafting a replacement and simply hoping it all worked out.