Kyler Murray and the 6 quirkiest NFL contract clauses

What are the oddest clauses in NFL contract history? The list involves weight bonuses, palindromes, Dez Bryant, and D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

Kyler Murray is an extremely wealthy man after signing a five-year, $230.5 million contract extension with the Arizona Cardinals. Still, even the second highest-paid quarterback in the NFL has to abide by the fine print. Murray’s deal contains a stipulation that requires four hours of “independent study” during the season, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. It’s certainly an odd proviso, but the NFL has seen weird contract clauses before.

Quirkiest NFL contract clauses in league history

According to Murray’s contract, his independent study must involve reviewing “material provided to him by the Club in order to prepare for the Club’s next upcoming game.” In other words, he has to watch film.

Mandatory team meetings don’t count towards Murray’s four hours, and he’s not supposed to get distracted by television, video games, or the internet while preparing for his next game. No word yet on whether he has to finish the dishes and take out the trash before his friends can come over.

Murray isn’t the first NFL player with a strange provision in his contract. Here are the six weirdest contract clauses we can remember.

Dez Bryant’s new rules

After several off-field incidents, the Cowboys instituted a new plan for wide receiver Dez Bryant as the 2012 season approached. Dallas set up a three-man security team (on Bryant’s dime) that always left him with one guard. He was driven to practices and games by that same security personnel and wasn’t allowed to stay out past midnight unless given prior authorization.

The Cowboys didn’t want Bryant using alcohol, forbade him from attending strip clubs, and only allowed him to visit nightclubs if they were team-approved. He also was required to meet with a counselor twice per week. Dallas even installed cameras inside Bryant’s house to monitor who was entering and leaving.

Dez’s rules were initially supposed to stay in place for three years. However, Bryant didn’t get into any more off-field trouble, and the Cowboys eased the regulations earlier than planned.

It’s the end of the world as we know it (and Rick Mirer feels fine)

When Rick Mirer entered the NFL as the No. 2 overall pick in the 1993 draft, he wanted to make sure he got every cent he was owed from the Seahawks. It was the beginning of the salary cap era, and teams, agents, and players all had uncertainty about how the league’s new rules would impact contracts.

As such, Mirer’s agents brought ironclad language often deployed in the world of banking to the NFL landscape. Per the terms, the quarterback’s deal would “survive and remain effective from the date of execution of this contract up to and including the end of the world.”

Mirer ended up posting just a 20-31 record and a 41-to-56 TD-to-INT ratio over four seasons in Seattle, but he may have overlooked a career in comedy. When teammate Jeff Graham asked Mirer what would happen regarding his contract if the QB were orbiting Earth in a spaceship and the planet was destroyed beneath him, Mirer said: “I keep the shuttle.”

Fun with weight bonuses

Trent Brown was the heaviest player in the NFL until the Ravens drafted Minnesota’s Daniel Faalele this year, and the Patriots have their offensive tackle on a weight loss program. As detailed by Mike Reiss of ESPN, Brown is due to collect $1.5 million over the next two seasons if he could keep his weight down. New England wanted Brown at 385 pounds by the first day of the team’s offseason program and 365 pounds by July 15 and through the season.

Offensive linemen are often the subject of weight bonuses, but the Seahawks used a weight clause for running back Eddie Lacy, who reportedly tipped the scales at 267 pounds during a March 2017 free agent visit. Lacy could earn $55K per month for weighing 255 pounds in May, 250 pounds from June through August, and 245 pounds during the season. All told, Seattle tied $385K of Lacy’s $4.25 million deal to his weight.

The Eagles even used a weight bonus to circumvent the NFL’s compensatory pick system. In 2018, general manager Howie Roseman inserted a clause in 200-pound Mike Wallace’s contract allowing the veteran receiver to collect a $585K bonus if he weighed under 250 pounds by the start of Philadelphia’s offseason program.

Weight bonuses don’t count in the comp pick formula. That incentive (and others) significantly reduced the overall value of Wallace’s deal, and he ultimately didn’t factor into the compensatory program at all, saving the Eagles a sixth-round draft pick.

The Rams’ affinity for palindromes

The Rams are known for going all-in on deals for veterans, but they used to be associated with a weird contractual quirk — personalizing the terms of pacts, often through the use of palindromic numbers.

As ESPN’s Kevin Seifert explored in 2017, the Rams ensured that Tavon Austin — who wore No. 11  — had a $1,111,111 base salary in 2016. That palindrome had a personal touch, but others appeared random. Edge rusher Robert Quinn got a $4,776,774 signing bonus in 2015. In 2012, cornerback Trumaine Johnson received a bonus of $671,176.

“It’s also just a fun thing to do,” said Rams executive Tony Pastoor, who told Seifert he’d personalized roughly half of the 1,000 contracts he’d done. “Football is supposed to be fun. It should be fun if you work in the NFL, and if you can’t have fun, you’re doing something wrong. This lets the players know that we put some thought into it rather than doing a basic minimum deal. It’s a pretty simple way of having players think, ‘Hey, someone thought of me as a person.'”

The Carl Pickens clause

In 2000, in response to criticism from punter Lee Johnson two years prior, Bengals owner Mike Brown instituted a loyalty clause into his team’s contracts. The stipulation became more widely known as the “Carl Pickens clause” after Cincinnati inserted it into the wide receiver’s deal.

Pickens, who had signed a five-year, $23.3 million deal with the Bengals in 1999, publicly decried the club’s decision to retain head coach Bruce Coslet. The clause, which Brown argued for in a newspaper editorial, gave the Bengals the right to target Pickens’ signing bonus if he was openly critical of the team.

The clause was never actually used against Pickens, but it was later upheld by an arbitrator following an NFLPA complaint. Cincinnati also reportedly placed the same clause in Carson Palmer’s deal when the Bengals drafted him No. 1 overall in 2003.

Using special teams incentives to fluff contract values

Sometimes incentives are used to circumvent the NFL’s salary cap rules. Other times, they’re utilized simply to make a player feel better about his annual salary.

In 2010, receiver Brandon Marshall wanted a $10 million average annual value from the Dolphins. So what did Miami do? They put a 2014 roster bonus of $2.7 million in Marshall’s deal that was only payable if he played at least 95% of the club’s special teams snaps in 2010. Marshall’s career-high in special teams snaps is eight, so the Dolphins never had to be concerned about handing over that money, but it gave Marshall a nice, round number.

That same year, the Jets pulled a similar trick with offensive tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. He’d nominally inked a six-year, $60 million extension to stay in New York, but he could only max out his compensation if he played at least 97% of the Jets’ special teams snaps in 2015 and 2016 — and blocked at least seven punts in each season!


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