Kyler Murray is the latest NFL quarterback to get paid,with the Arizona Cardinals that has a reported average annual value of $46.1 million.
He’s now the, but as we wait for the exact details of the contract, we know that’s not everything.
The five-year, $230.5 million deal is the first big quarterback deal since Deshaun Watson’s $230 million fully guaranteed deal, but Murray’s is not fully guaranteed. The seachange many who represent players were hoping for has not taken place.
Said one person close to a quarterback expected to get his big contract within the next 12 months: “Deshaun opened the door. Don’t let the owners close it back.”
Watson’s deal was historic for many reasons. Until his deal with the Browns, only Kirk Cousins had seen a fully guaranteed deal at the quarterback position. Of course, NFL team owners would love to ignore those deals.
Part of the issue is the league’s so-called “funding rule” that requires team owners to put into escrow the same amount of money they’re guaranteeing a player. This rule has been in place since well before the league became an 11-figure business, and there’s little reason to have it in place as revenues continue to climb each non-COVID year. Still…
“Despite all the player empowerment and salary raises that happened this summer,” one source recently told me, “the owners are still leaning on that more than they should in negotiations.”
There doesn’t need to be a new CBA for the league and the NFLPA to abolish the funding rule, but as long as team owners have that crutch, why would they give it up?
All that said, there’s a big difference between $46 million in guaranteed AAV and $46.1 million in sort-of-guaranteed AAV, even if there’s some impressive cash flow at the start of the deal. Enter Lamar Jackson.
Jackson’s contract talks have been difficult to report on because he and his mother, Felicia Jones, have been acting as Jackson’s representation. She doesn’t speak to reporters and they don’t leak information like most every player representative does, so if any leak comes out of any contract talks, it would obviously be coming from the Ravens. And Baltimore doesn’t want that to play out publicly.
But I don’t get the sense that Murray’s deal necessarily impacts Jackson, as many have said in the hours since the initial Murray numbers were reported. Jackson, a former unanimous NFL MVP with two playoff appearances and one playoff win, should still be aiming to match and top Watson’s guaranteed deal. That should still be the bar for Jackson.
Obviously, negotiations are what they are, so what one side’s starting point is doesn’t mean that will be the ending point. Perhaps Watson’s deal will remain anomalous as NFL team owners act as though it doesn’t exist. But I just don’t get the impression the Murray deal has much material impact on Jackson.
Deshaun Watson decision
The longer retired judge Sue L. Robinson takes to decide on a potential Watson suspension, the more settlement talks between Watson and the NFL could renew.
I’m told neither side has picked up the phone yet to work out any deal, and both sides understand that Robinson has every intention of issuing a ruling well before the start of the regular season (though everyone involved would love it if that decision would come out by the start of training camp next week).
There’s the threat of a lawsuit by Watson should he get an unfavorable ruling, but there are issues with that. Ezekiel Elliott and Tom Brady both sued the NFL and ultimately lost those cases. Secondly, those lawsuits took place during the old CBA, and this one would take place under the new CBA where this form of arbitration was collectively bargained and agreed to.
But should Watson sue and the legal case drags on into another season a la Deflategate, he would be risking pushing his potential punishment into the 2023 season when his base salary is $46 million. Missing out on any of those game checks would be far more financially painful than the ones from this year’s $1.035 million base salary.
Since the final day of hearings back in June, those involved with the case knew well Robinson’s decision would take time, so that there’s no decision today (or tomorrow or even if there’s not one next week) will not come as a surprise.
What’s next for Jimmy Garoppolo?
Who’s up for a waiting game? That’s what we’re about to have with the San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Niners have given Garoppolo’s agents the green light to seek a trade. As I reported on CBS Sports HQ Wednesday, that news is more of a formality given that no team was going to be trading for Garoppolo in the offseason when he couldn’t even throw a football. Now he’s cleared to return to practice, though the Niners will certainly be delicate with him.
The Browns are positioning themselves as uninterested in Garoppolo, and they brought in A.J. McCarron and Josh Rosen Thursday to workout for a spot on the training camp roster. The Seahawks have their eyes on a QB competition in camp between Geno Smith and Drew Lock — at least for now. Even if they decide they don’t want to go with one of those guys, trading for a quarterback with a healing throwing shoulder from a divisional rival is a remarkably difficult thing to do.
No team is jumping at the chance to house Jimmy G right now, and no team will until a) he proves he’s healthy enough and/or b) that team’s own quarterback situation becomes dire (via an unfortunate camp injury) that they are forced to engage in trade talks.
The Niners obviously want draft pick compensation for Garoppolo, as well as the ability to free up cap space to re-sign the likes of Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa en route to another Super Bowl run. Trading Jimmy G would free up $25.5 million in cap space, and the team getting the quarterback would very likely rework his deal (which is non-guaranteed) under this year’s cap.
. If Garoppolo is healthy enough to pass a physical before the season starts, the 49ers could cut him and save that same amount against the cap. That’s not ideal, of course, because there’s nothing more valuable in this league than a winning quarterback, and parting with one for no draft-pick compensation is next to impossible to do. But if you have to free up the cap space and have nowhere else to go, that may be your final option.
That’s what some league executives I’ve talked to are waiting for. It’s unlikely the QB situation at the other 31 NFL teams will remain as it is right now, but if no team finds a need to trade for Garoppolo, teams may wait for the Niners to make a very difficult decision and then swoop to get Jimmy G on the cheap.