TEMPE, Ariz. — Whether or not Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray will receive a contract extension this offseason became the hottest topic during the first few days of the NFL combine, thanks to a statement from his agent, Erik Burkhardt, released as events started in Indianapolis. And until the extension happens — if it even happens — it’s a topic that won’t go away.
This much we know: Murray is eligible for an extension now that he has completed his third NFL season, he has one more year left on his rookie contract and is also eligible for a fifth-year option that can be picked up until May 2.
Until Burkhardt released his statement, talk of a possible extension for Murray had been dormant. The statement unleashed a barrage of questions for coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim last Tuesday. Then last Wednesday, the Cardinals announced the contracts for Kingsbury and Keim had been extended through the 2027 season.
History suggests Murray’s extension could happen sometime in the summer or early fall like those for Carson Wentz (June), Patrick Mahomes (July), Josh Allen (August), Deshaun Watson (September) and Jared Goff (September). In the meantime, we’ll try to answer some looming questions.
Where do the Cardinals and Kyler Murray stand on a contract extension?
As of now, they’re in talks. Murray’s agent sent the Cardinals a contract proposal in February but a deal has yet to be struck. Keim said at the NFL combine there’s “always been current dialogue.” Murray’s rookie contract will pay him a base salary of $965,000 but he’s due a roster bonus of $4.5 million on the fifth day of the league year.
What’s the buzz about Murray receiving an extension?
A common refrain among coaches, agents and reporters at the combine was confusion about why Burkhardt released the statement when he did. Many didn’t think Murray would receive an extension so soon. And many thought it was unwise for Murray’s camp to be seeking one before Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson got his, in part because Jackson’s deal could raise the bar for Murray’s contract.
What would a contract look like?
Without knowing the specific deal Murray and his agent asked for, the Bills’ Josh Allen and Cowboys’ Dak Prescott are most likely the best comparisons. Allen’s six-year extension signed last August was worth an average of $43 million with a total guarantee of $150 million and $100 million fully guaranteed. In March 2021, Prescott received a four-year extension worth $40 million per year with a total guarantee of $126 million and $95 million fully guaranteed. Murray’s ask will likely be right around those numbers.
For a point of reference, this year the quarterback franchise tag is projected to be $29.5 million.
What will factor into when Murray could receive an extension, for how long and for how much?
Keim spoke on the process of giving an extension — not just to Murray — during the NFL combine and said there are a few key factors to look at: the makeup of the current roster and the structure of the extension.
“It’s about how you structure contracts,” Keim said. “You always have to keep your eye on the future years. To me, like I can’t just look at this offseason, I have to continually look three years in advance and try to see where some of these contracts are going, how we’re pushing money forward, because it’s going to catch up to you at some point. We all know that you got to pay the piper some day and time. And that’s not fun to do, especially when you’re talking about incurring dead money, and all the different things that come with that.”
Murray’s cap number for 2022 currently stands at $11.3 million and the Cardinals currently have $2.4 million of cap space in 2022, according to ESPN’s Roster Management System. Keeping that number the same or close to it would mean Keim, his analytics team as well as Matt Harriss, the Cardinals’ cap guy, must figure out ways to get Murray his desired number while keeping the contract as team friendly as possible.
What are the important dates?
The most important is May 2. That’s the deadline for teams to pick up the fifth-year options for 2019 first-round picks, of which Murray was the first one chosen. Keim said at the combine he will “absolutely” pick up Murray’s option. If Murray doesn’t have an extension by then, he’ll be tied to the Cardinals though the 2023 season. If he eventually receives an extension, the option year becomes a moot point.
Another date to keep in mind but isn’t as important is April 18. That’s the first day teams with returning coaches can report for offseason workouts — which means that’s the first day Murray could start a holdout. The offseason workout program is voluntary, so not showing up would not necessarily signal a holdout.