Kyler Murray is latest who must deliver after the Valley’s Big Bag summer
Welcome to Big Bag summer in Arizona. Kyler Murray, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker have signed megadeals worth more than $587 million combined.
That’s over a half-billion dollars in new hopes and expectations.
Who delivers the ring? Who blinks first?
Murray received a reported $230.5 million contract, an astronomical figure for an undersized quarterback with more question marks than playoff victories. Can he see the middle of the field? Can he be a leader of men? Will he play through pain deep into the season, walking barefoot and backward over burning coal if necessary?
Murray also emerges mostly unscathed from a contract squabble cooked up by his agent, Erik Burkhardt, beginning with that infamous single-spaced, all-caps missive questioning the Cardinals’ commitment to winning. It was a dangerous ploy, an impatient attack on a prideful owner.
Fortuitously, Murray was also in the on-deck circle after Deshaun Watson’s groundbreaking, fully guaranteed contract with the Browns. And in the end, the Cardinals had no choice but to pay full price for their franchise quarterback, especially after their staggering generosity shown to head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Early in the process, Murray became a polarizing figure in the Valley, impugned by his playoff debut in Los Angeles and his agent’s audacity. But Murray toed the line and restored his scrubbed photos on social media. He showed up briefly at voluntary workouts and repeatedly pledged allegiance to Arizona. On the night of the NFL Draft, he was gifted Hollywood Brown, a wide receiver who is also one of his closest friends. And in the end, he got his money.
There are strings attached. Windfalls bring heightened pressure and scrutiny in professional sports. Same is true with Booker, who signed a four-year supermax deal worth $224 million and is coming off a pair of dreadful performances in the Western Conference semifinals. Same with Ayton, who commanded $133 million from the Suns as a player who already infuriates fans with his passivity. Money changes everything and guarantees nothing in return.
Murray is clearly worth the risk. He has the skills, the speed and the arm talent to lead Arizona all the way to a Super Bowl championship. When healthy, he gives the Cardinals a chance to win every game they play, and that is premium fuel for any NFL organization.
Notably, all of Murray’s teammates spoke glowingly of him during the contract squabble. They all know he is their ticket to relevance, to playing in meaningful games every weekend. Players will also tell you the worst feeling in the world is showing up at the facility every Monday knowing your team has no chance to win. We’ve had plenty of teams like that in Arizona, and Murray is the antidote.
When feeling frisky, he is indefensible. When running the ball 10 or more times, the Cardinals are unbeatable. He’s one of the most exciting players in football. Hopefully, Murray’s big payday will compel him to commit even harder to film study, taking snaps under center and bonding with everyone in his orbit, no matter how far he must travel from his comfort zone.
After all, he is now one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. It’s time to deliver.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.