The dramatic period that was Arizona’s offseason has come to an end with two symbolic events: the return of players to the team’s facility, and the agreement with Kyler Murray on a massive extension.
As far as Steve Keim is concerned, it was never in doubt. The five-year, $230.5 million deal was only a matter of time.
“No, not at all, just because I have so much faith in not only [Murray’s agent] Erik Burkardt and being able to get it done with him because I have a long relationship with him,” the Cardinals general manager said during a Friday news conference. “But [Cardinals coach] Kliff [Kingsbury] and I went and saw Kyler and his parents this offseason, had a great communication with them, felt great about the dialogue and understood what expectations were for both sides. … Once I was able to get through [the draft and free agency] and be able to focus on the contract, I feel like both sides are pretty happy.”
Murray certainly has to be happy. His extension places him $500,000 ahead of Deshaun Watson in terms of total contract value — Murray is now second in the NFL on a per year basis — and although it’s not fully guaranteed, it is the type of pay day that signifies the Cardinals believe in Murray as the franchise’s future.
There was a time — not too long ago, in fact — when that didn’t appear to be entirely true. Murray dug into a disruptive stance centered on being paid like a franchise quarterback, taking his gripes to social media by scrubbing his accounts of Cardinals references and launching a months-long roller coaster of drama that only seemed likely to be resolved when he reported to organized team activities in a “show of good faith.”
Now that it’s all settled, Murray downplayed any conflict between he and the Cardinals.
“Never. This is where I want to be. I made that clear,” Murray said when asked if he considered a future spent somewhere other than Arizona. … “More so the bad days I’m talking about, just the negativity of taking the heat throughout social media, and all of that stuff. … I’m a quiet dude when it comes to social media and stuff like that. Just to be able to sit there and take all of the shots and stuff like that, it is what it is.
“I understood that this is part of the business. I let them take care of what they need to take care of. I love the game of football and my goal is to when championships.”
If that is the goal, the Cardinals have taken care of one massive task by securing Murray’s services through 2028. Now it’s up to them to prove that their late-season breakdowns in each of the last two years were nothing more than teaching moments in their preparation for future success.
“I personally feel like this is just the start,” Murray said. “I feel like the past three years, we’ve been able to do a lot of great things. All we’ve done is go up. I’ve done a lot of great individual things, but again for me the goal is to win championships, and I feel like this is the start.
“I think with a lot of the reps and experiences that I’ve been able to go through these past three years will help bring along the rest of my guys. I think as a collective we’ll only be better from here on out.”
Arizona needs Murray to be more of a leader when the going gets tough, but it’s not his responsibility alone. Murray also needs proper support and direction from the front office and coaching staff, which isn’t likely to receive another free pass if they repeat the same struggles down the stretch for a third straight year.
Murray is hoping what they’ve collectively experienced — notably a blowout loss to the Rams in last season’s opening round of the playoffs — will prepare them to avoid the same pitfalls in 2022.
“That was an unfortunate way to end the season. But if you look at all the greats — every great as gotten beat in terrible way at one point or another,” Murray said. “To be able to feel that pain and that hurt, what could I have done differently. Going back and watching the game over and over again, like I said, I’ve done nothing but learn from my mistakes throughout my life and my career and hopefully the guys do too.
“It’s crazy because everybody is trying to make it about the money, I know people aren’t going to believe me, but I really don’t do this for money. … I’m solely focused on football.”
The money part has been handled. Now it’s up to Murray to prove the football on which he’s focused is good enough to make a run at a title.