It’s been an awkward, at times, offseason for the Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray. As of today, the offseason has one week left.
The Cardinals’ veterans report for training camp next Tuesday. On Monday, they found out that apparently disgruntled center Rodney Hudson has returned to regular, normal gruntled status, and will be present for camp. That’s good news. The better news would be a new deal with Murray.
The silence from both sides suggests that they’re talking, and that they’ve agreed to talk only to each other. No leaks, no grandstanding, no social-media messages.
It nevertheless remains to be seen whether they’ll get a deal done. It won’t be easy. The range for the highest-paid quarterbacks keeps stretching. The salary cap keeps increasing. Murray keeps presenting real questions regarding how and where he fits in the broader franchise-quarterback analysis.
Yes, the team has been better with him. But how good will it be? What’s the ceiling? It’s hard to forget the fact that, every year, the team slides down the stretch. It’s impossible to forget last year’s playoff loss to the Rams, in which Murray looked somewhat less than ordinary.
The other question is whether that even matters. For most teams, it’s enough to contend on an annual basis. Only one team wins the Super Bowl. The others hope to merely be in the conversation. Murray has brought that to the Cardinals, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue.
That reality is balanced by the fact that, when it was obvious that he wasn’t thrilled with the situation in Arizona, no other team made an aggressive push at trading for him. The Broncos made a beeline for Russell Wilson, not Murray. The Browns went all in for Deshaun Watson. Neither the Seahawks nor the Texans tried to backfill their losses at the position by trading for Murray.
Murray has two seasons to go before commencing the franchise-tag dance. He surely wants, and deserves, security against serious or cumulative injury.
And that’s where the pressure point will be. Beyond the annual average that Murray eventually will secure, how much of the deal will be guaranteed at signing?
That’s where the Watson deal becomes a major complication for the Cardinals. They have a quarterback who isn’t necessarily injury prone but, given his size, he’s more prone to being injured than other quarterbacks. Would the Cardinals be willing to guarantee four or five years of salary given the possibility that Murray will lose a step or two of his uncanny speed and acceleration?
He suffered an ankle injury in Week Eight last year against the Packers. He missed several weeks. When he returned, he still seemed to be bothered by it. A fully-guaranteed deal therefore requires the Cardinals to take a more significant risk, one that most teams don’t take with more traditional quarterbacks who: (1) are larger; and (2) don’t rely so much on running and the threat of running.
So the talks presumably continue. If a deal is coming, it should come this week. Otherwise, the question becomes whether Murray would hold out of camp — or whether he’ll show up and hold in, declining to practice until he has his second contract.
Either way, answers are coming soon. Maybe this week. Maybe next week. Maybe at some point before Week One.