DAN BICKLEY

Rodgers, Wilson news emphasizes need for Cardinals to pay Kyler Murray

Mar 8, 2022, 5:36 PM
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals stands for the national anthem during the NFL ...
Quarterback Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals stands for the national anthem during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 13, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 30-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Packers understand. The Seahawks are about to find out.

If you don’t have a franchise quarterback in the NFL, you have nothing.

Are the Cardinals paying attention?

On a seismic day when Aaron Rodgers re-upped with Green Bay and Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, the plight of Kyler Murray returned to the front burner in Arizona.

Rodgers’ massive contract extension was a powerful reminder that Murray’s price tag only goes up from here. Wilson’s departure means the NFC West has been stripped of its heavyweight title, a division where Murray is now the longest-tenured quarterback in the division.

It’s time for the Cardinals to pay up.

I repeat:

It’s time for the Cardinals to pay up.

Like most, I have serious questions about Murray, from leadership to toughness to his bonafide love for the game. I have newfound concerns about his size and his immaturity and his inability to rally around or thrive on adversity. But the overly generous contract extensions awarded to Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury change the calculus entirely.

No serious franchise would generously reward a streaky GM and mediocre, work-in-progress head coach with deals that run through 2027, only to alienate a young quarterback who is far more important to the future of this franchise. The display of hubris is a distant cousin to the Bulls claiming that organizations win championships while Michael Jordan was on the roster.

To be blunt, what has Keim or Kingsbury ever won?

Granted, these are crazy times in the NFL. The Packers gave Rodgers exactly what he wanted, a giant financial kiss and the implicit admission that they erred when drafting his replacement. The Seahawks traded Wilson because they don’t want to give him a top-of-the-market contract next season, foolishly siding with the defensive tropes of Pete Carroll.

In the somber days after Kurt Warner retired, Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt was cheerful and undeterred, extremely confident that his hands could shape any piece of clay into a winning NFL quarterback. A few years later, he was desperate. Like any other have-not.

There is a chance Keim is negotiating with the Texans, ready to deal Murray for star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who should get a much clearer picture on his availability in the coming days. The women who filed criminal complaints of sexual misconduct against Watson have been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury on Friday.

If the grand jury returns an indictment, Watson is effectively off the market.

Barring that contingency, the Cardinals need to pay Murray now because they have no better options at the most important position in sports. The last thing they need is a Grumpier Cat. And because commitments matter in the NFL.

The cronyism will be lost on no one in the locker room if the team only rewards the triumvirate at the top, none of whom wear the uniform, while refusing to pay the quarterback and the quarterback wrecker (Chandler Jones); while prematurely giving a veteran’s job (Jordan Hicks) to an unproven rookie (Zaven Collins) to make the GM look better; while parting ways with De’Vondre Campbell to create space for Isaiah Simmons, another first-round draft pick; while completely mismanaging Haason Reddick and his contract; and watching as a former practice squad player (Rasul Douglas) turn into one of the breakout cornerbacks of the 2021 season.

At some point, the Cardinals need to do exactly as Murray’s agent, Eric Burkhardt, said in his much-ridiculed statement: They need to put their money where their mouth is. Or at the very least, they need to put it back into the team’s most important players. Especially after the marquee developments on Tuesday.

Maybe the two sides are already softening, ready to renew their vows. Murray repopulated his barren Instagram account with all those Cardinals photos he purged at the start of all this drama. Maybe it’s proof that Keim didn’t sell the owner on the pipedream pairing of Kingsbury and Colt McCoy, who won two of three games together in 2021.

That would be a disaster. That would violate the No. 1 rule in the NFL, where you must pay an extremely high price for a franchise quarterback, even those as quirky and iffy as Murray. Or an entire city pays through the nose.

Dan Bickley

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Rodgers, Wilson news emphasizes need for Cardinals to pay Kyler Murray