Recently, I wrote about eight starting QBs in the NFL who were high draft picks and who have generally underperformed “expectations”/”hype”. There is another highly drafted QB who has not nearly underperformed as badly as the ones I listed before but is one who might turn out to be a lot less than what he was expected to become. I speak here of Kyler Murray who was the #1 overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Oklahoma.
Make no mistake; Murray has been more productive and more exciting in his brief career than the guys on my prior list; nonetheless, I think he might be setting himself up to tarnish his image just as his career reaches a balance point. Let me give you some of the salient points in Murray’s existing contract – – the thing that has made him unhappy:
- He will make a total of $5.5M this year. That is below the median for the salary for a starting NFL QB.
- This year will be his fourth year under his “slotted” rookie contract. Since he was a first round pick, that formulaic contract provides the team with a “fifth year option” – – and that would pay Murray a tidy $29.7M for the 2023 season.
- Murray wants a longer-term deal with LOTS more guaranteed money. Problem is that the Cards hold all the leverage at the bargaining table.
- Murray has ghosted the Cards on social media and then restored them; he is not taking part in all of the team off-season activities; he is letting the team know publicly that he is not a happy camper.
That fifth-year salary of $29,7M for Murray looks gaudy, but the reality now is that the elite NFL QBs are making north of $40M per season. Murray wants to drink from that fountain and the Cards are dragging their heels a bit. Murray’s first three years have been up-and-down – – and even in their “up-mode” they have not necessarily been at the 90th percentile of QB performance(s). On top of that, Murray’s game relies heavily on his ability to run and make plays on the run; that style of play means he is open to – not necessarily prone to – injuries from the normal wear and tear that accrues to people running with a football-in-hand in the NFL. I am not saying Kyler Murray is “fragile”, but his style of play makes his long-term viability more in question than some of his peers.
The Cards hold the high cards for the moment. The only drastic action Murray might take is to withhold his services until that point in the season in November when he would have to return to the team in order to prevent his contract from tolling, In doing that, he makes it clear to the other 31 teams that he is not a “team guy” but he is a “me first guy”. That is not going to help him get him a top-flight contract.
I suspect that the Cards and Murray will find a way to get something done to tamp down this acrimony between now and the end of the 2022 season. However, unless Murray absolutely lights it up in 2022, I do not see him breaking the bank and holding down the label of highest paid NFL QB even for a brief moment.
Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray are similar QBs in terms of the way they play the game and how they achieve success for themselves and their teams. Jackson came into the NFL the year before Murray, so he is now playing in his fifth year under that “fifth-year option” contract. Lamar Jackson will make $23M this season. And he too wants a long-term deal with a slug of guaranteed money; absent an agreement on a long term deal or a franchise tag, Lamar Jackson will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2022 NFL season.
The last reports I read had the Ravens offering deals that averaged out to $35-37M per year with Jackson rejecting such offers out of hand. [Aside: Jackson and his mother are representing him in these negotiations. He does not use an NFLPA-certified agent to represent him in these talks.] There is no way Jackson is going to sit out most of the 2022 season and giving up $16-18M of that juicy salary for this season. But he could dig in his heels and stretch this out until the free-agency season of next Winter/Spring. If that is his preferred avenue, my suspicion is that the Ravens will apply the franchise tag and keep him in Baltimore giving them time to acquire another young QB and starting to groom him.
- [Aside #2: I am not casting aspersions on either Jackson or his mother here because I know nothing about them outside of Jackson’s exploits on a football field. However, I do not see other young, successful QBs who wound up in these sorts of standoffs in their option year. I wonder if an agent – – someone who does this 365 days a year for a living – – would have had an acceptable compromise deal worked out by now.]
There is a ton of hype surrounding the situations of these two QBs and it would not shock me to see more of the drama unfold even as the regular season progresses. But in the end, I expect both QBs to be with their teams for 2022 and for 2023. It is not necessarily what either QB wants to happen, but it is a fallout from the contractual structure that has been validated – – even blessed – – by the last two CBAs between the NFL and the NFLPA.
And speaking of formulaic NFL rookie contracts, I wonder how the new Name Image and Likeness deals that college football players can now accept might be factored into some of the new rookie contracts. Might some of those “NIL Deals” have clauses in them that kicks back something to the payer of the NIL rights in the event that the player moves on to play professional football? Terra incognita anyone?
Finally, the topic for the day likely involves interactions with the egos of two young NFL QBs; so, let me close with the definition of “Ego” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Ego: The part of one’s mind that contains awareness and the sense of one’s own individuality. Highly developed in actors, models, sports figures, doctors, real estate tycoons, and, God help us, our children.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………