Gather round, people of Arizona and beyond: The Cardinals chasm is no more.
Kyler Murray received his wish, and Arizona has its quarterback under team control for years to come. Murray and the Cardinals agreed to a five-year extension worth $230.5 million, including $160 million in guarantees, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Thursday.
The deal runs through 2028, Murray's age-31 season, ending any uncertainty under center for the Cardinals and putting Murray in line to sign another whopper of a contract if his performance fits.
In the end, the public conflict between parties paid off for Murray, who is now the NFL's second-highest paid player on a per year basis ($46.1 million) just months after scrubbing his social media of any Cardinals references and starting a saga that dragged well into the summer. The dramatic narrative -- a slow-burning standoff with significant implications -- played out over multiple months, with Murray's camp releasing a lengthy statement (484 words, to be exact) in February about their stance on the quarterback's future while reports surfaced from within the team regarding concerns related to Murray's maturity.
Simply put, Murray wanted to get paid, and his team wanted him to prove he was worth the money for the long run.
The gap between the two sides seemed impossible to clear for a while. Then, Murray demonstrated a bit of the maturity the Cardinals were seeking when he reported to organized team activities at the start of June.
It was seen as a "show of good faith" from Murray's side, and it ultimately led to the new contract he desired. Now, it's up to Murray to prove he's worth the cash.
At his best, Murray is a uniquely talented quarterback capable of dissecting a defense however he and coach Kliff Kingsbury desire. He's an electrifying player who is good enough to lead his team to great success; Arizona's 10-2 start last season was no fluke.
But the late-season production from both Murray and the rest of the Cardinals hasn't lived up to expectation. After spending a good portion of the 2021 campaign looking like the best team in the NFL, Arizona again entered a tailspin, losing four of its final five games -- including an inexplicable blowout defeat at the hands of the lowly Detroit Lions.
When times have been tough, Murray hasn't quite risen above adversity. In 2020, health issues plagued him and limited his ability to lead the Cardinals down the stretch. Last season, the team fell apart as a whole. Murray posted two games of sub-73 passer ratings in the team's final five weeks and was even worse in their blowout loss to the division-rival Rams on Super Wild Card Weekend.
Arizona's investment in Murray means the Cardinals expect him to be better in the future, starting with 2022. He's not far off from this target, either: Last season, Murray led the Cardinals to a key win over the Cowboys in Week 16, completing 68.4 percent of his passes for 263 yards and two scores against a top contender within the conference.
Arizona just needs that type of play more often when it gets late in the season and the games matter more. The Cardinals' decision to sign Murray means they believe such performances are in their future, which they'll share for the majority of the decade.
The Murray deal also essentially establishes a new market standard for the position at $46.1 million per year, which will likely impact another crucial negotiation for a marquee quarterback: Baltimore's Lamar Jackson. While Murray didn't receive a fully guaranteed contract like that of Cleveland's Deshaun Watson (five years, $230 million), he did take a total that is only $500,000 more than Watson's deal.
The new benchmark, then, is in the $230 million range for five-year deals. That's the target the NFL should expect Jackson to seek whenever he and the Ravens get around to negotiating a new deal. For now, though, Jackson remains as the only star quarterback without a lucrative, long-term deal in place. We'll see whether this prompts Jackson and the Ravens to work on a new contract, or ride it out through his fifth-year option.