Kyler Murray has unique leverage over Arizona Cardinals

Feb 8, 2022, 2:01 PM | Updated: 2:25 pm

The Cardinals front office must know what Kyler Murray wants. Chances are, they are the ones refusing to give it to him.

Would you?

With three years under his belt, Murray is eligible for a whopping contract extension. He is also under team control for two more years. His compensation for next season is $11.4 million, a sum that might offend him, especially in a league where the 10 highest paid quarterbacks all earn more than $30 million annually.

Murray’s mood can only be assumed. But by scrubbing all Cardinals content from his social media platform, unfollowing the team in the process, Murray is making some kind of statement. His actions have created a national stir and unneeded distractions in Arizona. It might be the opening salvo, his one chance to express his unhappiness without saying a word.

Phase 2 is where it always gets ugly, as we’ve seen with Patrick Peterson and others.

The difference with Murray is that he is truly different. He has unique leverage because he can always go play Major League Baseball. And because the Cardinals might need him more than he needs them. For proof, look at any other NFL franchise with a void at franchise quarterback.

Yet if Murray’s contract desires have been rebuffed, it means the Cardinals are effectively expressing doubt in his abilities as a franchise quarterback. Consecutive second-half collapses might give the franchise pause. Same with Murray’s shaky performance in a playoff loss to the Rams. They have plenty reason to wonder about Murray’s ability to stay healthy and sustain an elite level of play beyond Thanksgiving. After losing five of their final six games, many in the organization seem to be pointing at Murray as the player with the most to prove, and the one who must improve the most. Meanwhile, retooling the current roster is much easier with an inexpensive quarterback.

But Murray might see things differently. He is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year, and he might be especially bothered if he thinks he’s shouldering unfair blame in the presence of a floundering head coach and a paper-thin roster.

Since he is choosing not to quell the speculation he’s created, it’s difficult to predict what Murray will do next. A trade demand, like Chandler Jones? A holdout? A return to the Oakland A’s?

Many scoff at the latter notion. But it would be a massive coup for Major League Baseball if a transcendent Black athlete and former Heisman Trophy winner bolted the almighty NFL for America’s former pastime. It would give the fading sport an enormous jolt of credibility.

Through his self-preservation skills, we also know that Murray doesn’t exactly embrace the violence and danger that come with professional football. His lone wolf mentality is equally obvious, where he struggles with the leadership component, where he doesn’t seem to enjoy communicating and connecting with others. At times, he behaves more like a baseball player than a prototypical football star.

The fear is that Murray is just different enough to call a bluff, to quit on his current profession and go make a different fortune on a safer playing field. And that should be enough to get the Cardinals attention.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6-10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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