Calculating Kyler Murray’s next contract with the Arizona Cardinals

With Kyler Murray looking for a contract extension this offseason, what is the deal's potential value if they get one done this year?

Following his third year in the NFL, Kyler Murray’s contract and a potential extension were always likely to be a topic of intrigue this offseason. However, the release of a statement by Murray’s agent on February 28 only enhanced the discussion around the future of the first overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look at what a potential contract extension for Murray could look like and where he sits in comparison to other recent first-round QBs.

Kyler Murray’s potential contract extension

Let’s get the housekeeping out of the way first. Murray is under contract with the Cardinals for 2022 at the very least. The Cardinals have until May 3, 2022, to decide if they want to exercise the fifth-year option built into his rookie contract. If they do, Over the Cap estimates that Murray would count $28.598 million against the Cardinals’ cap in 2023. That is because Murray has been voted to the Pro Bowl twice in his first three years in the league.

What that means is that Murray is essentially on a two-year contract worth a total of $40 million. His cap number for the 2022 season sits at $11.186 million, all of which is guaranteed. The reason those numbers are important is that all of it plays into the consideration of Murray’s potential contract extension and the price it might take to sign him long-term.

Murray’s potential contract value has a lot of layers

The value of Murray’s contract is where things get really interesting. At the start of the offseason, it seemed like there was an attempt by the Cardinals to somewhat smear Murray. Sources out of Arizona described Murray as “self-centered, immature, and someone who points fingers.”

Since then, we have seen Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill extend somewhat of an olive branch by saying Murray is part of the long-term plan for the franchise. That statement by Bidwill was then essentially answered by the response from Murray’s agent.

The good news when estimating the potential value of Murray’s contract extension is that we have some recent comparables to look at.

The highest-paid QB in terms of annual average value is Patrick Mahomes, at $45 million a year. Then we have the likes of Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, and Josh Allen at $39 million, $40 million, and $43 million, respectively.

Josh Allen’s deal makes for an intriguing comparison

It would be stunning if Murray’s contract came close to touching that of Mahomes — either in terms of value or length. However, Allen is an intriguing comparison. Allen signed his deal after his third season, and the numbers he had posted to that point are in a similar range to Murray’s.

Through three years, Allen had completed 62% of his passes at 7.17 yards per attempt with a touchdown rate of 5% and an interception rate of 2.3%. Murray had completed 67% of his passes at 7.26 yards per attempt with a touchdown rate of 4.4% and an interception rate of 2.2%.

The story is similar when it comes to their rushing ability. Murray averaged 5.7 yards per attempt (Allen was at 5.2), but Allen had 25 rushing touchdowns (and 1 receiving touchdown) to Murray’s 20.

Allen’s contract extension was a six-year deal worth $43 million per year. It also contained incentives that can take the value up to around $48 million per year. Understandably, that is the contract that Murray and his agent will be pointing at this offseason. Murray also has the additional advantage of his fifth-year option being worth around $5 million more per year than Allen’s would have been.

Could Murray ask for a similar deal Allen’s?

Unfortunately, things are unlikely to be that simple. The Cardinals could point to the improvement in Allen in his third year. The change in his numbers, especially as a passer, were drastic. So much so that he finished the year second in MVP voting, fourth in terms of Offensive Player of the Year, and earned a second-team All-Pro selection.

Murray might have won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2019, but it was considered a weak year for the award, and the improvement has not really been there. Yes, Murray has two Pro Bowl selections. But that does not carry the same weight as even a second-team All-Pro selection does. That all plays in when it comes to the value of any contract extension for Murray.

Murray’s numbers have just not really improved the way Arizona would have hoped. His touchdown rate has increased, and his interception rate decreased, but neither was drastic. The biggest thing in Murray’s corner is his jump in yards per attempt from 7.0 to 7.9. The decrease in his production in the run game will also be a concern. His yards per attempt dropped from around 6 to 4.8 in 2021. For a smaller QB, the durability of that rushing production will be a concern.

This all makes for a fascinating situation. If Murray puts together a superb 2022, he could earn close to $50 million per year next offseason. The salary cap is expected to jump, and Murray will have a lot of leverage. Equally, if he reaches free agency in 2024 after two good years, he’ll be a hot commodity. The danger is that Murray has had a couple of nagging injuries. Another major one — or poor performance — could seriously sink his value in 12 or 24 months.

Projecting Murray’s contract extension in 2022

Ultimately, a deal will likely get done. The statement heading into the league year will raise eyebrows. It points towards a level of impatience, and some will say immaturity. In the last two offseasons, Mahomes and Allen have largely been patient publicly, and both were rewarded. The Cardinals will have hoped Murray would show the same patience.

Unless there’s a major breakdown in communication this offseason, Murray should have a contract extension by the time the 2022 season begins. The big question is whether the Cardinals make him wait the way the Texans made Watson wait.

The difference here is that there is a perfect contractual precedent for Murray and the Cardinals. Murray and Allen are very comparable in terms of talent and their statistics through three years. That was different from the Watson situation, where Mahomes’ huge deal completely changed the market.

Therefore, Murray’s market value projection from Spotrac seems reasonably spot on. A $43 million a year deal across six years ($258 million) that is worth slightly more than Allen’s deal works nicely for both sides. Murray gets to say he is second only to Mahomes in terms of AAV, and the Cardinals avoid the potential pitfall of leaving it another year with the salary cap rising. Murray and his agent will likely push for more given that projected cap rise. But a heavily incentivized deal with another $35-$50 million of potential value could bridge that gap.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles