The Arizona Cardinals’ $230 million commitment to quarterback Kyler Murray raised eyeballs throughout the NFL, but whether it reshapes the quarterback market in the future remains to be seen.
Cardinals general manager Steve Keim left little doubt that the organization is behind Murray, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, given the hefty financial commitment to the 24-year-old signal caller.
“This is as much about doubling down on Kliff Kingsbury as it is rewarding Kyler Murray,” Heavy contributor and former NFL Executive of The Year Randy Mueller said by phone.
However, given the heavy financial commitment, the contract’s clause mandating Murray study four hours of film each week indicates a healthy amount of skepticism that Murray will be able to break through to become one of the NFL’s truly elite quarterbacks.
“I have done hundreds of contracts over the years,” Mueller said. “Including many, many first-round picks. I’ve negotiated multi-million dollar free agent deals, and I have never heard of a clause like this. I’ve never even thought about why you would do this, until now.
“I think it’s set everybody back, wondering why, but it gives credence about the doubters of Kyler Murray that have been out there since Day 1.”
Last season was the first time Murray led the Cardinals to the postseason, falling to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams, 34-11, in a game he completed just 19-of-34 attempts with two interceptions.
Murray’s Cardinals raced out to a 7-0 start to the 2021 campaign, before limping across the finish line by losing four of their final five games, en route to an 11-6 finishing and first-round exit from the postseason.
Now, they’ve committed over $200 million to Murray.
“[Murray] sent out a ransom letter, and they kind of took heed to it,” Mueller explains.
Murray, who owns a career 22-23-1 record, is now the third-highest paid quarterback by total contract value, and his $46.1 AAV is second only to reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers.
However, Mueller was quick to dismiss any thought that this contract will now be the benchmark for how deals are negotiated this year and beyond.
“I don’t think it’s going to have the effect that some might think,” Mueller said. “I think most of the league sees it as Kyler being Kliff’s guy.”
Who Benefits Most From Murray’s Extension?
All eyes are on Lamar Jackson.
Jackson reported to training camp this week, and with an MVP award in tow, the Baltimore Ravens star could be well on his way to a Murray-sized commitment.
While Jackson has yet to deliver much in the way of postseason success — and neither has Murray — the former first-round pick has guided the Ravens to a 37-12 record in games that he has started, and owns an 84-31 touchdown-to-interception ratio, on top of being one of the game’s most electrifying playmakers at the position.
If Jackson can put it all together this season, and lead the Ravens to a playoff victory, Murray’s contract may just be the starting point for his financial ceiling.
“It may impact any Lamar Jackson deal,” Mueller said. “Especially when it comes to average per year.”
But, Jackson isn’t the only quarterback who will be studying Murray’s deal closely…
What Jalen Hurts Must Do to Earn Murray-Type Contract
Perhaps the only player across the NFL more excited about Murray’s mega-extension than the Cardinals quarterback himself is Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Hurts is entering a pivotal third NFL season, his second as the Eagles’ starter, that just might determine his future, as well as Philadelphia’s at the position.
“I think the Eagles have done right by Jalen Hurts,” Mueller said. “I am a believer in Jalen Hurts, and I would go all-in on Jalen Hurts, at some point.”
As September approaches, though, there may not be a more polarizing quarterback in the league than Hurts, especially when it comes to whether the Eagles should make a Murray-sized commitment to him.
“If I were representing Jalen Hurts, I would be fighting tooth and nail for Kyler Murray money. But, I’m not sure they are anywhere near the same class of quarterback,” an agent familiar with the quarterback market told Heavy.
The agent’s sentiment is a popular one, inside league circles, but also one that Hurts has the opportunity to dramatically alter this fall.
“The difference between [Murray] and Hurts,” Mueller explained. “Is Jalen has gotten progressively better. If you study him at Oklahoma to his first year with the Eagles, to where he is at this moment today, you can see progression along the way. He has all the intangibles. He has all the leadership. He has everything I would line up behind. I just haven’t seen Kyler with the same progression.”
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has done a masterful job of building one of the game’s premier offensive lines, and bolstering Hurts’ supporting cast via this spring’s draft night blockbuster to acquire star wide receiver A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans.
Brown arrives in an offense loaded with playmakers, including second-year wide receiver DeVonta Smith, running back Miles Sanders, and tight end Dallas Goedert.
So, what must Hurts, who tossed only 4 fewer touchdowns in his first season as a starter than Murray’s 20 as a rookie in 2019, and helped guide the Eagles to a playoff berth in 2021, need to do in order to cash in?
“He needs to lead them to the playoffs rather than ride them to the playoffs,” an AFC Offensive coordinator told Heavy, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about another team.
Last season, Hurts completed 61.3% of his passes for 3,144 yards with 16 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, as the Eagles reached the NFC playoffs as a Wild Card, but were largely led by the NFL’s top rushing offense.
“For him to make that leap, it starts with staying healthy,” the coordinator says. “But, he’s going to have to prove he can make a throw on third down, and especially in the red zone.”
Mueller agrees, suggesting that in order for the Eagles to be fully confident in moving forward with Hurts long-term, the passing game from the pocket must improve, but that falls as much on head coach Nick Sirianni and the play-calling, as it does Hurts.
Hurts has the benefit of a second season in Sirianni’s offense, and a vastly improved supporting cast. However, as the coordinator points out, must dramatically improve Hurts is just a career-50% passer on third down, which in tight games stalled drives could make all the difference.
But, both Hurts and the Eagles have to be encouraged by the fact that 16 of his 31 career touchdowns have been thrown from inside the 20-yard line, which also happens to be where Brown has pulled down 58% of his touchdowns.
“Jalen’s really made great strides as a pocket passer,” Mueller said. “They just don’t do it a lot. It’s not his fault, he isn’t calling the plays. They have to advance their passing game, and believe in him.”
So, where do the Eagles — who own a pair of first-round picks in the 2023 NFL draft — go with Hurts?
“It’s all on Jalen,” Mueller said. “He has to advance. But, if he advances this year, I could see him getting paid in the neighborhood of Derek Carr, and his $121 million deal.”