Arizona Cardinals

At a crossroads with their quarterback's contract.

Since the advent of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, many teams that have drafted a quarterback early in the first round have taken similar approaches while that player is on his rookie contract. If a young quarterback performs well while his salary is locked in below the market rate, the team can invest the cost savings in veterans around him to supplement the roster and create a more competitive squad. As shown by recent history, it’s generally a pretty good plan, and Arizona has put that method of roster building into action around 2019 top overall pick Kyler Murray.

Over the course of Murray’s first contract, Arizona has steadily invested more and more into the infrastructure surrounding him on offense by trading for expensive veterans, drafting wide receivers with early picks, and signing free agents to complement the existing offensive core . One would expect that dropping talented players such as wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, tight end Zach Ertz, and center Rodney Hudson into an offense piloted by a hotshot young quarterback and an offensive-minded head coach who was personal friends with Sean McVay would result in eye-popping numbers. While the team’s results have been a bit mixed, Murray finds himself with some pretty solid statistical peers.

Murray has produced at an effective level through his first three seasons in the league, placing him in solid but unspectacular company as a passer to start his career. He has accrued nearly 1,800 passing DYAR through his first three years, adding about 180 rushing DYAR. When we look at players with at least 100 rushing DYAR and 1,500 to 2,100 passing DYAR through their first three seasons in the league, we are left with an interesting handful of quarterbacks (Table 1).

When we focus on both passing and rushing ability, we only find six quarterbacks in our data set that fit both criteria: Daunte Culpepper, Andrew Luck, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, and Murray. Unsurprisingly, most of these players came into the league relatively recently, with five of the six starting their careers within the past 10 seasons. Culpepper might not...