Throughout the offseason, NFL experts have consistently referred to the odd vibes in Arizona.
They were on full display Friday, when the Cardinals and Kyler Murray staged a press conference to celebrate his $230.5 million contract.
Strange only scratches the surface. To wit:
Murray brought his dog, Swoosh, a battleship of a canine that breathes louder than Murray speaks. Or maybe that’s because Swoosh was splayed out on the carpet just a few feet in front of me.
Of course, the cuteness of it all melted most everyone in attendance. But if I were about to sign the biggest payday of my life, I would not bring a large pet to work.
Also, Michael Bidwill was not in attendance, reportedly on vacation. Surely a coincidence.
But I can’t imagine he likes the feel of this deal. Not after getting needlessly embarrassed by agent Eric Burkhardt early in the process. Not after paying through the nose for a quarterback who hasn’t won a playoff game.
I’m not an expert on body language, but Burkhardt seemed ecstatic. He started all the drama months ago with his impatient demands, by jumping the line, by impugning the Cardinals with an infamous press release questioning Bidwill’s commitment to winning. The quarterback played along, scrubbing his social media accounts of all ties to Arizona, creating waves of media coverage.
There were times on Friday when Murray seemed tense and uncomfortable, like a stranger at his own party. He is clearly awed by his newfound riches, referring to himself as a “5-10 kid” who wasn’t sure if he’d get drafted in the first round. But he also seemed a little embarrassed at his role in all of this.
And then he said this:
“It’s crazy because everybody is trying to make it about the money,” Murray said. “I know people aren’t going to believe me, but I really don’t do this for money …”
Strangely, I believe him.
Along those lines, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim made an interesting admission. He said that he and Kingsbury flew to Texas during the contractual drama to meet with Murray and his parents, Kevin and Missy. To set expectations on both sides.
That sounds dramatic, no?
Keim also admitted taking 3:30 a.m. phone calls from Bidwill before the deal was solidified. The GM claimed he never had a doubt about the outcome. And yet he admitted to many sleepless nights along the way. Sounds like these negotiations were not a lot of fun.
Murray’s parents were also at Friday’s press conference, and there have been repeated rumblings about the father’s ubiquitous presence in Murray’s career. I dare not criticize a protective, engaged, loving parent. Kevin Murray taught his son how to throw a football and I’m guessing he helped deliver a contract that will fuel generations of Murrays to come.
But I also think about the difference between Murray and Devin Booker, even though they are only nine months apart in age. I wonder when Murray will stop looking at himself as a kid, and what that might mean for the Cardinals’ offense.
Final bits of weirdness:
There is a report that nearly $10 million of Murray’s deal is tied to a clause that requires him to attend offseason workout programs in Arizona. To get out of his cocoon in Dallas. To be present and available for teammates who want to work and bond with him. That’s not something that should require incentivizing, but the Cardinals clearly want more from Murray.
There is a notable difference between the reported amounts of guaranteed money in Murray’s contract. The Cardinals’ official website reports $105 million in fully guaranteed money. Earlier reports put the figure at $160 million. Some say there’s a difference between guarantees and full guarantees, like the difference between full and extremely full flights.
Also, the contract doesn’t feature a no-trade clause, a matter which Keim refused to address. And when Murray was asked about his desire to play baseball in the future, Keim jumped the question and answered first.
“Have you guys seen the payroll of the Oakland A’s vs. his contract?” Keim said.
Pressed for an answer, Murray simply said: “I’m where I want to be.”
Thankfully, there was a powerful moment that carried the day and the occasion, a moment when Murray expressed his gratitude to the Cardinals for believing in a 5-foot-10 quarterback. He said all that’s left for him is to fulfill his promise of bringing a Super Bowl trophy to Arizona. He said it like he meant it.
That moment gave me goosebumps.
Training camp is upon us. Murray is under contract through 2028. It’s now Act II in the life of our franchise quarterback. All aboard.
Reach Bickley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.