4 min read

Has Kyler Murray’s Gaming Cost the Cardinals?

Kyler Murray Contract

Of the thousands of contracts per season, there has NEVER been a provision included in a player’s contract requiring the player to study the game of football—not until Kyler Murray’s record-breaking $230.5 million extension at least. 

If you have yet to read the “Independent Study Addendum” to Kyler Murray’s contract, the language reads “Player shall complete at least four (4) hours of Independent Study each week (excluding any bye week) during each Playing Season during the term of the Contract.” Independent Study is later listed as a defined term excluding time spent while “Player is engaged in any other activity that may distract his attention (for example, watching television, playing video games or browsing the internet)”.

Perception is Reality

You might read pieces about this unprecedented language making it out to be not a big deal or a joking matter. Don’t believe them. There is no room for interpretations or spin about how Arizona views its new $230.5 million quarterback. 

There must have been numerous failed attempts to address this situation. Now, the Cardinals feel the need to put this kind of language in a $230.5 million extension. Every front office in the NFL knows every contract signed around the league—let alone one of this magnitude—is read by all 31 other teams, their owners, every agent in the business and the media. 

To understand this and to still include such language sends a very clear and important message: Murray’s interests outside of the game of football have created a huge issue. The team feels that issue cannot be appropriately addressed without a contractual obligation to study the game—a game Murray is being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to play. 

Arizona wouldn't put it in the contract for all the world to see if they didn’t feel his work ethic (or lack thereof) detracts from the team. If we believe actions speak louder than words, then the decision to include this language sends a clear message: Murray's lack of preparation will no longer be tolerated. The Cardinals must think this issue is affecting his performance to a significant degree.

Additionally, the team has not been as good as it could be...if not for lack of consistent engagement from the star quarterback. 

A Calculated Gamble

Not only is the language a clear sign Murray’s preparation has been subpar, but it now creates all kinds of other questions surrounding enforcement of the addendum, consequences for the first offense, who decides whether the standards were met and what are the penalties if he continually fails to meet the four-hour independent study criteria. 

All of this makes me believe the team used this clause more as a way to send Murray a message rather than threaten any portion of his contract or the $160 million in guaranteed money.

This brings up the all-important question: Why would the Cardinals be comfortable giving this type of money to a distracted 24-year-old who the team still has two years of control over?

Oftentimes, teams will give the player an incentive-laden deal that rewards them for team performance and individual markers throughout the contract. On the other hand, teams will often decide to not agree to a deal until their concerns are addressed. 

While it is hard to believe Murray’s work ethic forced the Cardinals to include this addendum, it was clearly a sticking point for the team, or else they wouldn’t have insisted on putting it in there for the entire NFL world too see. From Murray’s perspective, he had the choice between walking away from $230.5 million or agreeing to this embarrassing language.

For $230.5 million, you will get almost anybody to agree to this type of language.