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While virtually the entire football world continues to breathlessly debate what the future of Kyler Murray will be after the 2023 season concludes, and how much he supposedly has to show on the field in the next month, it’s surely possible (and perhaps probable) that inside the organization the decision has already been made no matter what happens in the final four games.
Of course, none of us actually know what the Cardinals, led by general manager Monti Ossenfort, will do. However, from this corner, it’s clear: Murray should be the quarterback for at least the 2024 season for a variety of football and financial reasons.
Let’s deal with the latter first.
Kyler Murray’s contract
On the roster, Murray will count $51.857 million against the salary cap, which is expected to be in the neighborhood of $240 million.
That includes a base salary of $37 million, of which $35.3 million is guaranteed.
If the Cardinals were of the mind to move on from Murray, it’s imperative that he be traded so his new team would inherit the contract and take a large amount of remaining dollars off the cap. The reality is that what the Cardinals might acquire in a trade would be adversely affected by that contract as well as the limited sample size of his return to play after suffering a torn ACL in 2022.
In addition to next year’s guaranteed salary, there is $29.9 million of salary and roster bonus in 2025 that becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2024 league year and $39.835 million of salary and roster bonus in 2026 that becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the 2025 league year.
Meanwhile, if Murray were to be traded on or before June 1, 2024, the dead money on the team’s cap would be $46.22 million. Any team trading for him would surely want him on board before then.
If the Cardinals were to release Murray on or before June 1, the exorbitant dead-money cap charge would be $81.521 million. If they waited until after June 1, it would be $48.3 million against the cap in 2024 and $33.3 million in 2025. However, until then, the $51.857 million would be on their cap.
Then, there’s the issue of what the Cardinals would do at the position? There’s never a guarantee that a quarterback drafted, despite the noise every year that the top ones in the draft are sure things, will be as good as the one you have, much less better.
Consider, that of the 16 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the five drafts from 2014-2018, only three (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson) remain with the team that selected them. None of the seven picked in the top three are with their original team and only one, Detroit’s Jared Goff, is a starter. Four of the 16 are not playing in the NFL.
It’s too early to assess the drafts from 2019-2023, but the future is uncertain for Zach Wilson (second overall in 2021), Trey Lance (third overall in 2021) and Mac Jones (15th overall in 2021). Sadly, Dwayne Haskins (15th overall in 2019) died in April, 2022, but he was with a new team at the time of his passing.
It only makes sense for the Cardinals to stay with Murray next season and use the draft capital they have (and might acquire) as well as free agency to continue to build around him and improve the defense.
Overthecap.com estimates the Cardinals will have $55.87 million of cap space when the league year begins in three months and that includes projected dollars needed for the draft class and Murray’s contract.
Former Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin, a Hall of Fame semifinalist, believes that’s the right move.
“I think you have to, man,” Boldin said to Fox News Digital. “I think what he brings to the table, you’d be foolish to move on from him. We heard about the issues in the past. Some people saying he’s immature, he doesn’t study enough.
“But there’s not a lot of dynamic quarterbacks like him in the league. So when you have the opportunity to have a guy like that on your team, I don’t think you’re quick to move on from him. I think there’s a lot of teams who would have a guy like Kyler than not.”
Those around the team have said as much. And, while no one would expect anyone to publicly demean Murray, the level of accolades goes beyond simple support.
Following the win over the Steelers before the bye, Murray said, “Every time I touch the field I expect to win. Obviously, I’m still frustrated with the two losses, and me playing and dealing with those losses, but I was talking to Iz (quarterbacks coach Israel Woolfork) and this is technically preseason for me, four weeks into the season.
“I told him it was starting to slow down for me and getting more comfortable, and I just feel better out there right now. Hopefully, we can keep getting better and keep continuing to grow.”
Coach Jonathan Gannon said, “His feet are so good and so fast, I think sometimes he gets sped up a little bit and he’s aware of that. Maybe when he’s ready to hitch and throw, the routes aren’t developed or his eyes aren’t getting to the right progression, but he’s doing a good job with that.
“He actually told me that when he came off, I think after the third or fourth series (against Pittsburgh). He goes, ‘I’m settled in.’ He felt really good about what we were doing. As his process continues of playing in the offense versus different defenses — it was his second time on the road — so that’ll continue to get better.”
Murray also said, “We’re being coached well. I love the scheme. I love what we’re doing and the attention to detail is really what I love the most.”
Offensive coordinator Drew Petzing echoed that during his appearance this week on the podcast of ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Kyler Murray special
Petzing said, “He’s special. He’s been awesome. And I’ve said this before, really since I walked into the building: He’s everything you would want a franchise quarterback to be. Obviously, the injury and the rehab took away a little bit from his ability to really hone in and perfect the craft of playing the position in the offense, but just in terms of the way he attacked his rehab, the way he has immersed himself into the offense and adapted to what’s really been something he probably hasn’t done … I mean, he’s been in the same offense almost his entire life in a lot of ways and had a ton of success doing it.
“It’s not like he’s a failed product of a quarterback. He was a Heisman Trophy winner. He was a first overall pick. He was paid as a franchise quarterback for all the right reasons and he jumped right in and said, ‘Hey this is something I know is gonna be good for me. I think we can win doing this. I love this; I want to be a part of this. Teach me this.’ And he’s been so fun to work with from that standpoint.”
Petzing noted how he’s been impressed with Murray’s “competitive nature,” saying, “The second you tell him he can’t do something, he’s gonna show you that he can, no matter what that thing is. As a coach, that’s what you want … you want guys that are gonna fight and claw and scratch and work their tail off to be successful because that’s what you’re doing as a coach. And that’s what we’re trying to do as an organization. Really impressed with the way he’s handled the entire process.”
When Schefter asked whether there have been any issues with leadership, Petzing said quickly, “No. The best part about him is he’s gonna be himself. He’s not gonna let that outside noise influence who he is, how he does things. Certainly, as a player, as a person, myself included, you’re always trying to grow and be a better version of yourself. As people call you out and they challenge you and they question you, you listen to it, you hear it, but I think what he’s done a great job of is focusing on being him and not being overly concerned with the noise.
“I think he feels very confident in his desire to win; in his process, in the way that he prepares and works and certainly, yeah, can you tweak that a little bit to make yourself better? Absolutely. As we all are as people, but I think he’s done a really nice job of handling that. And that’s not always easy when people question you like that. It can be frustrating and it can be certainly upsetting if you don’t agree with it. But at the same time, you gotta let it go, you gotta make sure that you’re staying true to who you are and I think he’s done a great job of doing that.”
Schefter noted the ever-present noise about what the future holds, and said, “I know it’s not your decision. But, in your mind, sounds like you know who you want your quarterback to be. Am I reading that incorrectly?”
To which Petzing answered, “No, absolutely. The goal is always going to be to make the roster better in every way, shape or form. I think Monti, the scouting staff, the entire department is committed to that goal, but I feel really good about where Kyler’s at as a franchise quarterback. He’s absolutely that. And I think he’s done a great job of embracing that role, and owning that role and moved into that role as he hit the field here about a month ago. So I’ve been really pleased with that.”
Interview clips from the podcast were on social media when Petzing had his usual Tuesday press conference with the local media.
Crediting Murray for his time on task this entire year, he said, “He’s done a really nice of handling a really hard situation. To go through that rehab; that’s not an easy task. Just physically to get yourself back to the position where you can play NFL football at the level he’s capable of and the level that he’s put on tape is really impressive.
“And then certainly while you’re going through that process to learn a new language, to integrate with new teammates and then to jump on the field a month ago; that’s a really tall task and he’s done a great job of handling it and embracing it and making the most out of it.”
Asked about his labelling Murray a franchise quarterback, Petzing said, “He is a franchise quarterback. The way he carries himself, the way he plays the game, the way he leads. Everything about the type of person and player he is warrants that. He’s done a really nice job of embracing and continuing to grow and improve.”
When asked Wednesday about the things Petzing said, Murray responded, “Obviously, to have the faith of ‘JG’ (Gannon), Drew and Monti, all those guys, it means a lot. It’s on me though to go out there and prove why they paid me, why I got drafted, all of that. That’s a battle every single day. It should be for me, and it should be for every player. There’re obviously different reasons why I play the game, but for them to have my back for sure is definitely a good feeling.”
Meanwhile, when asked about being excited and anticipating what 2024 would look like with Murray in a normal offseason, Petzing said, “Absolutely. I’ve been really excited every time he walks out on the field on Sundays to watch him go play. I think he’s that type of player. He puts in the time to be that type of player, so I don’t think that excitement for me is gonna change.”
Kyler Murray leadership
Finally, when asked about leadership and if he has noticed anything negative with Murray, he said, “No. He’s done a phenomenal job from that standpoint as long as I’ve walked in the building in terms of attacking the rehab, being a great teammate, trying to put himself in the best position to help the team. I think you’ve seen the leadership qualities in terms of putting his arms around guys, coaching guys, talking to guys about different things within the offense, trying to be that guy and he’s done a really nice job of that. So, excited about that and would expect that to continue.”
It should continue and, unless we’re all being snowed because the Cardinals desire a more conventional quarterback, it will. Then, it will be up to Ossenfort and Co. to approach roster building much different than they did in 2023.
Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, become a DIEHARD and use the promo code HOWARD
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