Who didn’t see the latest Kyler Murray development coming, considering how his offseason has gone? In a move that should surprise no one, the displeased Arizona Cardinals quarterback was not present for the first day of the Cardinals’ voluntary offseason program, NFL Network first reported.
Murray, the outlet added, communicated his plans with the franchise and is one of “many team veterans” who are staying away to work out on their own. But none of those other many veterans are engaged in an awkward contract dispute with the Cardinals.
Murray’s soft holdout is just the latest turn of a screw in a contract saga that’s likely to get more acrimonious before it gets resolved.
Kyler Murray absent for first day of Cardinals’ spring workouts
Murray has spent the offseason trying to get a new deal and has used public opinion and public pressure as his allies.
His agent, Erik Burkhardt, has negotiated publicly for a new contract. Burkhardt has since pulled his opening contract proposal after the Cardinals declined to make an offer of their own. Murray has gotten into the act, too, scrubbing (and then later restoring) all references to the Cardinals on his social media.
In its reporting, NFL Network has hinted that Murray will not play under his current deal (he’s due to make $965,000 this year, and assuming the Cardinals pick up his fifth-year option, $29.7 million in 2023).
All of this has fired up speculative chatter league-wide that Murray could actually be traded ahead of next week’s NFL Draft — even though the Cardinals insist they won’t deal him.
Will the Cardinals trade Murray?
“I think Kyler Murray is out of here,” former NFL receiver James Jones said on NFL Network recently. “I think Kyler Murray is not going to be in Arizona going into this season. It’s just too much. It’s been too much.
“Since he’s come into this organization, especially this season, it’s always been ‘well, this ain’t right. That ain’t right. Well, this happened and that happened.’ It’s just been too much. So I think the organization is like ‘You know what? There’s a lot of teams out there with some draft capital. This is a young phenom, a young superstar in the National Football League, possibly could win one or two MVPs.'”
Jones added: “I think he’s out of Arizona, I think somebody is going to give a deal to the Arizona Cardinals that gets Kyler Murray out of there and gets him on a new team. There’s just too much draft capital and there’s too much going on I don’t know if the organization wants to deal with. And even if you do pay him I see this happening again. I see some problems with Kyler Murray, ‘The roster ain’t this’ or something may happen. I think we’ve seen the last of Kyler Murray in an Arizona Cardinals uniform.”
Teams that could conceivably have interest in Murray include the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, and Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s next to inconceivable to think that the Cardinals would trade Murray within the division, so that would likely exclude the Seattle Seahawks.
What went wrong in 2021?
Teams dealing star quarterbacks this early in their career is so rare it’s almost unheard of. But as Jones mentioned, there have been some questions about Murray, from both a performance and personality standpoint.
Murray statistically has been a top-15 quarterback since he entered the league. And his yards-per-pass took a huge leap forward in 2021, to 7.9 from 7.1 the year before. But his rushing efficiency (4.8 yards per carry) was a career-low, as was his QBR (57.3). Murray is not an elite pocket passer, and there are real questions about his durability.
Part of his issues last year were, of course, due to the injury of DeAndre Hopkins. His play really declined without Hopkins in the lineup. And a potential cause of those struggles? Lack of chemistry with receiver A.J. Green, who is back in Arizona for a second year.
“There is a lot of room [for growth],” Green told the team’s website. “For me, it’s communicating with him what I see, and what he wants me to do and how he wants me to run this [particular] route. I think last year there was a lacking on my part. I didn’t really communicate with him about stuff like that because I didn’t want to put a lot of stuff on his plate.
“For me, it’s being more in his face, talking together. ‘A.J. you need to do this better,’ and I’ll be like, ‘OK, I’ve got to do this better.’ Don’t be hesitant when it comes to my play. ‘A.J., you need to pick this up.’ The second year is going to be big for that.”