The new news about Kyler Murray allegedly demanding a new contract lest he refuse to play for the Cardinals in the upcoming season is unique.
The fact that, with Mayfield and Murray, we have two quarterbacks who are consecutive first overall picks and good friends who are both in a bit of flux.
Murray has made it public that he doesn't want to play for the Cardinals this year without a new contract.
Now, don't get me wrong, I won't fight against players trying to get their second contracts ASAP. The average NFL career is three seasons, these guys are putting their bodies on the line, and they don't make particularly big money until the second contract.
The things that are making my brain grind on this are the contexts and the timing.
Mayfield has probably been talking to Murray about his feelings. Mayfield was drafted the year before Murray and he's on his fifth year option which is worth a fully guaranteed $18.9 million; but, with Deshaun Watson in Cleveland now, he's clearly QB2 with no assurances moving forward and no teams that seem to be trying to take him. Murray's fifth year option needs to be activated by May 3rd. Murray still needs to play the fourth year of his rookie deal this season that can't be altered but for it becoming fully guaranteed if the fifth year option is activated by the Cardinals.
The next two weeks before the draft are going to be huge. Still, I think that this is an elaborate game of Texas Holdem with an extra card showing on both sides.
Kyler Murray would be entitled to $29.7 million next season if the Cardinals activate his fifth year option. He'll only make $5.5 million this year because of the CBA and his large signing bonus - that set in stone. Murray's push for a new contract won't and can't change his salary for this season. The timing of his push for a new contract right now would indicate either that he thinks that the $29.7 million number for next season is too low for his tastes or that he wants assurances or both.
I think that it's safe to assume that Mayfield has been telling Murray about the horrors of the fifth year option; but, Mayfield's situation is one in a million.
My guess is that Murray wants one of those $40 million plus a year contracts that the top quarterback market is set at right now. He just wants to jump the fifth year option.
The thing is, let's look at the top quarterbacks who are better accomplished right now who will make less money this year than he'll make next year under the fifth year option:
Lamar Jackson, former MVP, fifth year option with no new contract, $23 million
Josh Allen, MVP finalist, multiple playoff wins including an AFC championship appearance, fifth year option of $16.4 million, new contract signed during his fourth season.
Deshaun Watson, established franchise quarterback, his new contract is worth $230 million fully guaranteed over five years; but, for this season, he costs $10 million.
Derek Carr (this is where it gets fun), is 31 years-old, he has as many playoff wins as Murray (zero), while really taking the Raiders further than they were ever expected to go multiple times, and he's making $25 million this year with an extension that allows the Raiders to cut him at almost cost after this season.
I think that the Cardinals want to come to the table with a fifth year option. They want to make sure that Murray is the guy and they're willing to spend $35 million over the next couple of seasons to see.
I think that Murray wants $40 million plus after this season and he wants it set immediately.
A reasonable compromise, to my mind, would be a new contract like Derek Carr's. Maybe even offer Murray more money; but, frontload the guaranteed money. Make the new contract a different kind of fifth year option where Murray has a new contract with a big payday coming in 2023 and the team has an easy out if he crumbles.
Otherwise, both sides might be screwed. If there's no agreement met by May 3rd to either a contact, a compromise, or a trade, Murray either has to show up or risk losing an entire season that he could use to prove himself to other teams. The Cardinals might trade him for what they can get after the other teams have already made quarterback decisions; but, the Cardinals have little reason to give in. If they can pass Murray off to another team for a first round pick, that's a better look than pulling what the Eagles did with Carson Wentz and committing to a player who falls apart with money that the team is going to be responsible for for years. What the Cardinals have to lose right now is a season without a quarterback, which is huge, but not as big of a loss as a quarterback who may not have a team.
I think that the Cardinals are going to make an offer similar to what Derek Carr has. If Murray rejects it, it'll actually be the Cardinals who are holding out.