Kyler Murray's Cardinals Codependency
NFL Offseason - Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals are bound together in either the most toxic relationship in NFL history or the most actualized.
Sure, adding a "u need 2 study da playbook moar" clause into Murray's $230-million contract was like slipping a weight clause into a prenup. But that's all in the rearview mirror. The Cardinals ripped out the independent study clause, Murray complained about it, and the team website publicly acknowledged (and therefore tacitly endorsed) Murray's complaints. And it all apparently happened in that order, backwards though that sounds. From a relationship standpoint, it sounds like the Cardinals and Murray are doing the hard emotional labor necessary to resolve a conflict, with the NFL news cycle serving as couples therapy.
Imagine if other teams and quarterbacks hammered out their miscommunications and mistrust so publicly and thoroughly. The Colts and Eagles could have tied Carson Wentz's contracts to him maturing into less of an oblivious toddler man. The Packers could have installed a "no passive-aggressive press conferences or podcast appearances" clause into Aaron Rodgers' latest contract. The Browns could have done something, anything, to protect themselves and society from Deshaun Watson. Then, when the sports talk uproar boiled into a froth, all sides could back down, come to terms with the others' point of view, and agree to disagree. Well, everyone but Rodgers.
Relationship dramas are on Walkthrough's mind because I'm just back from shepherding 60 teenagers across Central Europe, and golly were some of the travelers high-maintenance. But enough about my fellow adult chaperones! NFL decision-makers aren't known for their emotional honesty, which is why the quarterback compensation structure is built upon wishful thinking, financial apologies, and if you find the secret message in your playbook you win a prize bonus clauses. It takes either courage or foolhardiness to tell a franchise quarterback how you really feel about him, particularly in contract language. The Cardinals are certainly guilty of the latter, but it's charitable to think they deserve credit for the former.
The Cardinals and Murray aren't the only NFL power couple airing their dirty laundry these days. Novice Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah admitted to USA Today's Jori Epstein recently that he was "nervous about not burning it down at quarterback," admitting that Kirk Cousins was no Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes. Such refreshing honesty: Kirk, we love you, but sometimes we wish Tony Soprano would light team headquarters on fire with you locked in the weight room so we can collect the insurance money. Better to lay such cards on the table now than to pretend through gritted teeth to be completely satisfied with another season of Cousins' signature heroic comebacks from two touchdowns down to nearly cover the spread.
Alas, that truth bomb turned out to be a dud. Adofo-Mensah tried to unpop the balloon a day later with a confusing clarification which boiled down to I accidentally said what I meant instead of what I meant to say. Adofo-Mensah also overcompensated with a baffling statement about how Cousins goes "Zero Dark LeBron" in the offseason, the scrambled, labored metaphor akin to a chastened husband trying to talk his way off the couch by calling his wife "Sailor Marilyn Beyoncé Madonna Moon."
Rest assured that Adofo-Mensah will reach a crossroads sometime next winter, when the Vikings are celebrating their 34-7 wild-card loss to the 49ers, during which he will prepare to extend Cousins' contract for another cap- and expectation-massaging year, only to close his eyes and fantasize about his world being engulfed in cleansing flame.
Speaking of the 49ers, their brass finally sat down and cleared the air with Jimmy Garoppolo last week, just in case their former franchise quarterback hadn't read the subtle clues that they were eager to move on over the last two years. By the standards of NFL communications and honesty, the 49ers' last-possible-moment confab with Garoppolo was a big step up from just disabling his key fob and then watching from behind drawn blinds on the first day of training camp for him to finally give up and pull out of the parking lot.
In the wake of Murray's homework clause, endless speculation about Lamar Jackson's next contract (more on that in a moment), and some boilerplate anonymous racially charged slander, Patrick Mahomes was pressed into thankless service last week as the unofficial spokesperson for all black quarterbacks, and he handled the task with admirable firmness and tact. "We've got guys that think just as well as they can use their athleticism," Mahomes said. "So it always is weird when you see guys like me, Lamar, Kyler kind of get that on them, and other guys don't. But at the same time, we're going to go out there and prove ourselves every day to show that we can be some of the best quarterbacks in the league."
If you need Mahomes to explain the racial semiotics of Murray's homework clause, then you aren't inclined to listen to Mahomes' explanation in the first place. The Cardinals should have thought twice before inserting a clause making them sound like Alabama school board members from the 1950s. Murray, it should be noted, should also have balked at signing a document that made him sound like a tenth-grader trying to remain academically eligible. Agent Erik Burkhardt, who wanted a $230-million headline and his cut even if it embarrassed his client, shouldn't get to walk away from this T-boning unscathed, either. But all's well that ends well: Murray is rich, the Cardinals aired their grievances, and Burkhardt's culpability will be forgotten by the time he pursues next year's first-round quarterbacks.
The real takeaway from the homework-clause brouhaha is that Murray now knows what type of people he works for and where he stands with them. After all, quarterback contracts aren't marriages. They are business transactions. You don't have to love who you work for to succeed. Everyone merely needs to be clear about the terms and conditions. And Murray, who will probably go through this process at least two more times during his NFL career, will never enter negotiations naive about the Cardinals' or any other team's true feelings.
Lamar Jackson, DK Metcalf, Ryan Jensen, and More
News 'n' notes from training camps around the NFL…
Lamar Jackson hopes for a contract extension before the start of the season.
Jackson is not a good negotiator. He's signaling that he's in a hurry, which is like telling a used car salesman that you have no way of getting to work on Monday if you don't purchase a preowned Pinto today. Jackson should be leaning back and claiming that there is no urgency now that the season is near: he's willing to play for $23 million in 2022 and then test free agency in 2023, daring the Ravens to apply a franchise tag which (based on an average of the top five quarterback salaries in 2023) will be around $45 million. The Ravens, who would benefit from trading a proratable signing bonus for some 2022/2023 cap flexibility, are the side that should be eager to get a deal done.
Fortunately for Jackson, Steve Bisciotti and Eric DeCosta are too old-school professional to draft a contract that ties $100 million in incentives to Jackson hiring an algebra tutor or something. But the Ravens will surely try to build a contract that says $240 million on the cover page but is loaded with trapdoors and escape hatches of the sort Josh Allen doesn't have to worry about.
Jackson's reluctance to retain an agent is understandable after Erik Burkhardt's hide-the-diaper-in-the-laundry routine with Kyler Murray. But if Jackson is savvy enough at age 25 with a communications degree to negotiate a nine-figure contract for his true market value during his training camp free time, perhaps he should leave the NFL and become Secretary of the Treasury or something. It's more likely that Jackson will end up with a phonebook full of hard-to-reach incentives and voidable bonuses, then earn praise for "betting upon himself." But at least he will get it done by September.
Matt Rhule says "it's not my job to pick the starting quarterback," saying it's up to the players to prove themselves.
Rhule said the following day that the Panthers are "nowhere near evaluating who's where," which is not necessarily contradictory to his earlier remark but does betray the sort of cloudy reasoning that has rapidly become Rhule's trademark.
It's sad to see a gifted gladhander and gaslighter like Rhule flail so helplessly while trying to extract himself from his latest finger puzzle. The savvy move for Rhule would be to anoint Baker Mayfield as the Panthers' starter, then either reap the benefits of making what was clearly the best choice or blame upper management for forcing his hand if Mayfield fails. Rhule is probably toast no matter what unless Mayfield goes full Josh Allen, but blaming a meddling owner could help him immediately land on a soft cushion at some ACC program.
Unfortunately, poor Rhule either feels committed to making Sam Darnold work to soothe his own ego, is attempting some sad little mini-mutiny over being forced to acquire Mayfield, has some ill-conceived 4-D chess gambit up his sleeve, or sincerely does not realize that Mayfield is undoubtedly the better quarterback. He has therefore resigned himself to babbling and glitching daily to the media about a quarterback controversy that only exists because of his daily babbling and glitching.
Walkthrough is seeing +300 odds for Rhule to be the first NFL coach fired. That's not enough meat on the bone at this point. If Darnold starts the season opener and throws an interception, Rhule could get fired at halftime.
Seahawks sign DK Metcalf to a three-year, $72-million extension.
Once merely a one-dimensional king-sized deep boundary threat, Metcalf has turned into a capable possession receiver. Metcalf caught 40 passes for 472 yards and six touchdowns in the range of 5 to 15 air yards in 2021; his 32 first downs on targets of such length ranked 13th in the NFL. Metcalf will be there to help the Seahawks develop their quarterback of the future in 2023, once they stop screwing around with Tweedle-Gee and Tweedle-Drew.
The structure of the Metcalf deal suggests that the receiver market has stabilized in the wake of the Davante Adams/Tyreek Hill explosion. Metcalf and Terry McLaurin now represent an "upper middle class" on a rung below the elite receivers, and the status quo probably won't be upended again until Ja'Marr Chase arrives at the table in two years. History tells us that all NFL compensation markets stabilize quickly except for the quarterback market.
49ers sign Deebo Samuel to a three-year, $71.5-million extension.
See above. Deebo coming in below Metcalf on the bottom-line contract value is somewhat surprising, but let's see where things wind up when all the guarantees are made public. (This story broke on Sunday night and I'm still a little jet-lagged.)
Ultimately, the only real losers in this offseason's young wide receiver contract drama may be the Titans, who essentially slammed their Super Bowl window shut by trading A.J. Brown when they might have seen his asking price dip toward McLaurin/Metcalf/Deebo levels if they had kept their powder dry.
Jamal Adams plans to play with a "special cast" on his surgically-repaired fingers.
Adams didn't single-handedly (no pun intended) sink the Russell Wilson-era Seahawks. That lifeboat was already leaky when Pete Carroll decided to trade two bailing buckets and a caulking gun for a pint-sized anvil.
The Seahawks are carving out a whole new spot on the roster for Adams: SC. That doesn't stand for Slot Corner. It stands for Sunk Cost.
Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs says he wants to "beat my 11" interceptions next year.
It would be much more reassuring to hear that Diggs plans to cut down on his five touchdowns or league-high 916 yards allowed in coverage (per Sports Info Solutions), but whatever: Diggs' whole quote suggests that he is indeed focused on broad-based improvement, with double-digit interceptions as a narrative hook or reach goal.
The last player to record 10 or more interceptions in back-to-back seasons was Tom Keane for the Dallas Texans in 1952 and Baltimore Colts in 1953. Keane was not traded after a 10-interception season; the Texans folded and their assets were assumed by the expansion Colts. However, Keane was traded before his 10-interception season, as part of an eleven-player package from the Rams to the Texans to obtain the rights to draft future Hall of Fame linebacker Les Richter. Anyway, it would be truly amazing for Diggs to do something that Ronnie Lott, Ken Riley, Night Train Lane, and hundreds of other all-time greats could not do. But the Cowboys would happily settle for a few less mistakes.
Jerry Jones says that Ezekiel Elliott "has to be the focus" of the Cowboys running game.
Jones has been yammering about the Cowboys running back rotation since the day Emmitt Smith left for Arizona. It's somehow reassuring to think that after 30 years at the highest levels of NFL power, Jones still comprehends football at the level of a late-night sports talk caller.
Michael Gallup says that he won't be ready for Week 1.
Cowboys fans are coping by talking themselves into believing T.J. Vasher is the next Michael Irvin based on one training camp highlight.
Joe Burrow Undergoes Appendectomy
Everything will be fine. Burrow has real health insurance, not the Bengals' Orange Cross and Shield plan, where the only in-network physician is Dr. Jackson Carman.
Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen expected to miss "months" with a knee injury.
If a chartered TB12 V-22 Osprey hasn't landed in JC Tretter's backyard by the time you read this, then either: a) Bryan Glazer has run out of money (nope); b) Tom Brady plans to protect himself with pure hubris (possible); c) Tretter has made some truly powerful enemies as NFLPA president (he's a moderate, but NFL owners aren't too keen on opposition/consequences/inconveniences), or d) backup center Robert Hainsey is secretly the second coming of Mike Webster (Patriots fans would insist this was the case.)
Buccaneers sign Julio Jones
Can he play center?
Chiefs sign Carlos Dunlap to a one-year deal.
The Chiefs should craft one huge contract for Frank Clark and Dunlap and tell them that the one with the most sacks wins it, with second place getting a set of steak knives. That would keep both of them from taking September and October off.
Matt Canada says that Mason Rudolph "has a great shot" of winning the Steelers starting quarterback job.
Matt Canada has a great shot at being Matt Rhule's quarterback coach at Boston College in 2023.
Aaron Rodgers tells reporters a secondhand story from 2018 about the Packers front office mistaking Kenny Clark for a rando they planned to cut during training camp, which results in Clark being forced to discuss the embarrassing four-year-old incident with the press a day later, all so Rodgers can take his umpteenth passive-aggressive shot at his bosses.
Aaron Rodgers is the Aaron Rodgers of being an asshole.
Images of Training Camp
We begin with a reassuring sight for Dolphins fans: Tua Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill for 65 yards, about 55 of them air yards:
Tua ➡️ Tyreek Hill for 65 yards 👀pic.twitter.com/813wyrRjZa
— Caesars Sportsbook (@CaesarsSports) July 30, 2022
That's Noah Igbinoghene in coverage. You can see him thinking, "Nah, Tua can't throw it this far. Or can he? Oh crap, I'm one-on-one with Tyreek. Oh noooooooo!" But the best supporting actor in this highlight is the fan in the Tua jersey jumping up and down at the end. "Hooray! I won't be using this jersey as a garage rag by Christmas!"
And now a not-at-all reassuring sight for the Bills Mafia: Josh Allen slipping and falling on a keeper, then briefly playing dead in the end zone.
— The #BillsMafia (@BuffaloFAMbase) July 29, 2022
Not at all funny, Josh. But at least you aren't responding to unnecessary contact from a defensive teammate by getting in his face and ending up in the middle of a dangerous-looking ruckus ... oh dear.
BAH GAWDD… Tensions are high in Buffalo.. although there wasn’t any tables broken.. and there was no bildos on the field.. Josh Allen setting the tone..
🗣🗣 YOU AIN’T GONNA PUSH ME LATE
This is not a big deal at all.. this is just a “OH.. IT’S FOOTBALL SZN” pic.twitter.com/mh5nnB1yUA
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) July 30, 2022
Hitting Allen during practice should be punishable by an immediate trade to the Texans.
Meanwhile, in Ashburn, Virginia, Jahan Dotson earns top billing in this Commanders-posted highlight by hauling in a Carson Wentz heater.
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) July 30, 2022
Whenever I read "Jahan Dotson," my brain thinks "Josh Doctson," and I think that Commanders fans, fantasy gurus, and draft hipsters are going to spend the next four years waiting for this guy to break out. That's unfair, of course. As you can see in this photo by friend-of-Walkthrough Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post, Doctson has electrified both of the fans at Commanders camp:
The fan turnout for day 2 of Commanders training camp. pic.twitter.com/1gbYxOgnMA
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) July 28, 2022
Now, there's some palpable energy you can only get when Danny Deposition is your team's owner, Carson the Orchid is the new quarterback, and training camp is held on a choked stretch of charmless highway in the shadow of an airport.
Back here in Jersey, friend-of-Walkthrough Mike Kaye of Pro Football Network posted this video of Sauce Gardner blanketing a receiver and picking off a pass.
— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) July 30, 2022
Gardner is covering fellow cornerback D.J. Reed during a split-squad drill, FWIW, and the pass was probably thrown by a coach. That's what July training camp highlights are made of.
While Gardner shines, fellow first-round pick Kyle Hamilton gets smoked in one-on-one coverage against legendary Ravens teammate Bailey Gaither at a "fan's night" practice:
Kyle Hamilton on fire at camp 🔥🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/HIMSITIV8P
— HaskinsQB1🕊 (@MinkahsWorld) July 31, 2022
Those of us who watch lots of practice see this sort of humiliation all the time, especially when a rookie safety is lined up in one-on-one coverage against someone smaller and quicker. Those 1-on-1 drills are designed for the receiver to win. My only real worry watching this is Hamilton's lack of catch-up speed and urgency once beaten.
Finally, here's Patrick Mahomes with a behind-the-back option pitch to Clyde-Edwards Helaire.
— Harold R. Kuntz (@HaroldRKuntz3) July 30, 2022
When the Chiefs season ends with the Chargers stuffing this play at the goal line in the playoffs when Kansas City could have won by just handing off up the middle behind their offensive line full of Pro Bowl behemoths, don't act like you didn't see it coming.