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Building the Perfect Kyler Murray Contract Extension

After his agent sent an optimistic but stern open letter about the Pro Bowl QB’s status with the Cardinals, let’s talk about when Kyler Murray needs to be paid, and how much.

The tension has been ongoing. And while it’s often flown under the radar compared to the melodrama surrounding the precarious case of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay or the combination of confusion and pageantry that led to Tom Brady’s official retirement from the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals need to figure out how to keep Kyler Murray happy.

And they need to get busy.

Look no further than the statement released Monday morning by the former No. 1 overall pick’s agent, Erik Burkhardt:

Well, then. That’s a lot of words to toss out into the world all at once, but there should be no clearer takeaway — and yes, I’m paraphrasing — than “PAY ME.”

Murray just completed his third season in the league and is under contract through the end of next season. If the Cardinals were to pick up his rookie deal’s fifth-year option, he’d be locked up through March 2024. There’s nothing stopping a team, of course, from offering a star player a handsome extension before his first NFL contract is up.

As Ari Meirov of Pro Football Focus notes, five notable quarterbacks in the past three years signed big extensions after their third years in the league:

  • Jared Goff (2019, Rams): 4 years, $134,000,000
    • Guaranteed money: $110,042,682 (82.1% of total value)
    • Average annual value: $33,500,000
  • Carson Wentz (2019, Eagles): 4 years, $128,000,000
    • Guaranteed money: $107,970,683 (84.4% of total value)
    • AAV: $32,000,000
  • Patrick Mahomes (2020, Chiefs): 10 years, $450,000,000
    • Guaranteed money: $141,481,905 (31.4% of total value)
    • AAV: $45,000,000
  • Deshaun Watson (2020, Texans): 4 years, $156,000,000
    • Guaranteed money: $110,717,123 (71% of total value)
    • AAV: $39,000,000
  • Josh Allen (2021, Bills): 6 years, $258,034,000
    • Guaranteed money: $150,000,000 (58.1% of total value)
    • AAV: $43,005,667

Today, we’ll use these post-Year 3 deals as a jumping-off point to game out how much money Murray could and/or should make on a hypothetical extension.

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Projecting Kyler Murray’s Next Contract

In terms of contract length, we’ll lock in the four years Goff, Wentz, and Watson received as the benchmark the Cardinals should shoot for with Murray, who has two Pro Bowls to his name and flirted with the MVP conversation in the early-to-middle stages of the 2021 regular season while helping the Cardinals to their first playoff appearance since 2015.

As it stands, Kansas City’s Mahomes owns the largest NFL contract of all time by total value, while Buffalo’s Allen owns the distinction for guaranteed money. There is not currently a reasonable expectation that Murray, 24, would receive a payday quite on those historic levels, so we’ll establish his earnings ceiling a bit lower.

To get us to the appropriate number, let’s examine the Goff, Wentz, and Watson extensions as a percentage of the NFL salary cap for the season in which they began:

  • Goff’s $33,500,000 AAV was 17.8% of the 2019 NFL salary cap of $188.2 million.
  • Wentz’s $32,000,000 AAV was 17% of the 2019 cap
  • Watson’s $39,000,000 AAV was 19.7% of the 2020 cap of $198.2 million
Tensions between Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals will only subside with a contract extension. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

With this in mind, the lower boundary for Murray’s AAV request as a percentage of the cap should be between 17% and 20%. With the 2022 NFL salary cap projected at $208,200,000 that means:

  • A lower limit of 4 years and $141,576,000 for an AAV of $35,494,000
    • Less total value generally means more guaranteed money. If he receives 85% of total value guaranteed — just above Wentz’s 84.4% — that figure comes out to $120,339,600
  • An upper limit of 4 years and $166,560,000 for an AAV of $41,640,000
    • At a higher total value, we’ll project Murray receiving a smaller proportion of guaranteed money — 70% of the total, approximately what Watson received. That puts him at $116,592,000.

How Much Should Kyler Murray Make on His Extension?

Onto the final verdict!

Since we’re talking about a ballpark figure, let’s take the two above projections and meet halfway to establish a throughline that should ultimately end up in the vicinity of wherever any final deal should be — if and when one is decided.

Contract length: 4 years
Total value: $154,068,000
Average annual value: $38,517,000
Guaranteed money: $118,465,800

So, does this mean the Cardinals should just cut a check and call it a day? Well, with barely over $2 million in 2022 salary cap space as of this writing, there’s a whole lot they’d need to do to get things in place to be able to offer the bag to Murray.

But when it comes to making sure the face of your franchise is content, there’s no day like the present.

Kyler Murray’s Current Salary & Contract Details

Contract terms: 4 years, $35,658,014 (plus fifth-year team option)
2021 salary: $3,866,240
2022 salary: $5,489,360
Free agency: 2023 (2024 with fifth-year)

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