With just a week until most NFL training camps start up, Kyler Murray inked a new extension that will tie him to the Cardinals for the next seven years. The reported five-year, $230.5 million new money extension will make Murray the second highest-paid quarterback in NFL history in terms of total compensation, APY, and fully guaranteed money — second only to Mahomes, Rodgers, and Watson, respectively. The $160 million in fully guaranteed money is $10 million more than Josh Allen agreed to last offseason.
While the reported figures indicate Murray got a very strong deal, he was unable to follow Deshaun Watson’s lead in securing a fully guaranteed five-year extension.
With the Murray domino falling, Lamar Jackson’s extension may not be far behind.
Although both Murray and Jackson identify as young, mobile quarterbacks, their play styles are actually very different. Lamar is truly a run-first, unique offensive weapon while Murray, although mobile, is more of a pass-first-oriented quarterback. Likewise, their approach to their respective contract situations was not similar. However, they are likely to end up with similarly valued contracts.
Jackson is in a fairly unique situation. His individual talent has single handedly raised the level of his team — a feat which does not happen often in the National Football League. There was a time when a quarterback who was “run first” would not receive a top of market extension. Those days have passed and when this deal is done, he will be among the top five highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL.
In his 49 career regular season starts, a Jackson lead Ravens team won 37 times (more than 75% win percentage). At the same time, he led his team to three straight playoff appearances prior to this season, won MVP, and broke multiple quarterback rushing records.
The fact that the most recent quarterback deal before Murray was for a player facing suspension and legal challenges will be front and center in Jackson’s negotiations. The pressure to replicate a five-year fully guaranteed contract that Watson received is great. However, as we saw in the Murray deal, teams can still dismiss one contract as an outlier.
While representing yourself as a player is a risk, Jackson has actually played his hand well by waiting until the final days before camp to begin negotiations. Now that Murray’s extension is the most recent deal both he and the Ravens can have more in-depth conversations regarding the state of the quarterback market.
The structure of the next few quarterback contracts will play a major role in shaping the market for years to come.
Thanks to the Browns’ decision to give DeShaun Watson a fully guaranteed, five-year deal, Lamar’s negotiation carries even more weight than just the generational wealth that will come with it.
Currently, teams across the league are able to claim that the structure of Watson’s deal is an outlier that they are not willing to follow. Watson was courted by teams around the league as if he was an unrestricted free agent. This argument is strengthened by Murray’s partially guaranteed contract extension. Yet, if Jackson and the Ravens agree to a fully guaranteed contract extension, it will be extremely difficult for NFL franchises to pull the “outlier” card moving forward.
Assuming Lamar can pull this off, the challenge for teams will switch from “how much will be fully guaranteed?” to “how many years are we willing to commit to this player being our starter?” Teams will obviously want shorter contracts with less of a commitment at that point since the risk of injury and talent shifts from the player to the team.