Kyler Murray’s return carries financial risks for the Cardinals

Kyler Murray's return carries financial risks for the Cardinals

Adam ShifterSenior writer at ESPNOctober 22, 2023 at 06:12 AM ET3 minutes to read

What Pat McAfee takes away from Kyler Murray’s return to training

Pat McAfee explains what Kyler Murray’s return to coaching means for the Cardinals.

the The Arizona Cardinals want Kyler Murray to play again this season — so badly, in fact, that they’re willing to take the financial risks that come with a quarterback returning.

Murray, who returned to practice last week for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last December, has $29.9 million in salary compensation for 2025 that becomes fully guaranteed next March if he cannot pass a physical by then.

The only way to ensure Murray will be healthy by March 2024 is to not play him, which the Cardinals don’t want to do.

Murray will also face some of the NFL’s toughest defenses upon his return, as the Cardinals’ remaining schedule includes games against the Browns, Ravens, 49ers, Steelers, Rams, and Eagles — all teams with talented defensive lines.

Murray will not play Sunday against the Seahawks, and the Cardinals have not set a specific date for his return. Arizona has until Nov. 8 to activate Murray to the 53-man roster, meaning the Cardinals’ Week 10 home game against the Falcons will be the last game he can return for this season.

Murray, 26, signed a five-year extension in July 2022, keeping him under contract through the 2028 season and including a $160 million injury guarantee.

Sometimes the injury guarantees in a player’s contract are enough to force a team to bench him. Last season, for example, the Raiders decided to bench quarterback Derek Carr rather than expose themselves to any financial risk on his contract.

Carr signed a three-year, $121 contract. He had a $5 million contract extension the previous spring, but his $32.9 million 2023 salary and $7.5 million of his 2024 salary would have been fully guaranteed if he suffered an injury. Instead of putting $40.4 million in guaranteed money at risk, the Raiders sent Carr home and shortened his time with the franchise.

The Cardinals announced last Wednesday that Murray was designated to return from the physically unable to perform list, opening a 21-day window for him to be activated to the 53-man roster. The former No. 1 overall draft pick took some first-team reps and started working in Arizona’s pool, but the Cardinals have not revealed a timetable for Murray’s return.

“It’s exciting for me,” said DJ Humphries, who left the Cardinals. “Just seeing him running…I know he’s going in the right direction. When I saw him come in the huddle, I had to be like, calm down because he was trying to be calm and I was excited.”

Murray’s return will be an “organizational decision,” according to Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon, who added that Murray will be a “big part” of those discussions.

Joshua Dobbs will start at quarterback again on Sunday when the Cardinals (1-5) visit the Seahawks (3-2). Dobbs has been Arizona’s starter in all six games this season, completing 62.8% of his passes for 1,215 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

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