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“Sending Out an SOS”

In a move that was as predictable as a 100 plus degree July afternoon in Tuscon, Kyler Murray and Erik Burkhardt, precisely two weeks before the 2022 NFL Draft, sent word through Tom Pelissero @AroundTheNFL that “per a source” (i.e. Burkhardt) it “would be a surprise” if Kyler plays for the Cardinals this season “without a new contract.”

Each carefully designed and meticulously scheduled move by Kyler and Burkhardt has been made to ensure that Kyler Murray’s contract demands erupt as headline news during each integral event of the NFL off-season:

Pelissero’s timely report also arrived with a confirmation that Burkhardt has pulled his original offer (back when he issued the now infamous ransom note, all CAPS, manifesto) off the table a couple of weeks ago, because the price tag for franchise caliber QBs has gone up since Burkhardt so gratuitously offered the Cardinals a deal in the ballpark of the Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Deshaun Watson (then Texans) contracts.

Now that a couple of weeks have transpired since Burkhardt pulled his offer off the table, he and Kyler are apparently outraged that the Cardinals have not since made an offer. It was fairly clear from what what Michael Bidwill confirmed in his one media appearance on Arizona Sports radio that the organization’s focus right now is on free agency and the upcoming NFL draft and that the normal time to negotiate contract extensions for QBs is during the summer.

While Gambo and Burns reiterated their conviction that the Cardinals should sign Kyler to an extension this off-season, Gambo asserted that there is on on-going lack of trust between the parties that has prevented a deal from materializing.

Before we go any further, let’s set the record straight about Kyler’s rookie contract. All the talk about Kyler playing for a mere $5.5M this season is conveniently misleading, because Kyler’s $23M signing bonus spread out through the 4 years of his rookie contract is $5.9M a season, which added to the $5.5 creates a sum of $11.4M. If one adds the $29.7M guaranteed money that Kyler would make on a 5th year option to the $35.7M of Kyler’s rookie contract, the sum of those figures is $64.5M.

Sure, that’s nowhere near the $47-$50M a year contract that Kyler believes he deserves, but $64.5M in guaranteed money isn’t exactly chump change for a player entering his 4th season, especially when one considers that Kyler, despite his early season brilliance, has been injury prone and has struggled to win games after Thanksgiving, going 2-5 down the stretch this season (0-3 at home) with the Cardinals favored in 6 of those 7 games, plus 2-5 down the stretch in 2020 (1-2 at home) and 2019 (1-3 at home).

Those records are not all on Kyler. But, Kyler does not seem as aggressive or as confident after he returns from injury.

Now, of course, one can make the argument that Kliff Kingsbury deserves similar scrutiny with regard to the Cardinals late season swoons, therefore if Kliff was was given a contract extension, then Kyler should be give one as well. Yes, that’s a fair point, except that it isn’t likely that Kliff Kingsbury was asking to be paid in the average Belichick, Carroll, Payton range. And Kliff’s players respect him and they appreciate playing for him.

Because a contract extension for Kyler hasn’t been negotiated yet and Erik Burkhardt has issued an urgent demand for a new contract to occur before the NFL draft, this corroborates exactly what Gambo was saying about a lack of trust between the two parties.

From the Cardinals’ end, here is what I imagine to be the case. Immediately following the Cardinals embarrassing 34-11 loss to the Rams in the Wild Card round, Kyle Odegard reported that Michael Bidwill called Steve Keim and Kliff Kingsbury in for a meeting in which Bidwill was expressing outrage for what transpired at the end of the season.

It wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to think that a fair portion of Bidwill’s outrage was with regard to Kyler refusing to finish the game with his teammates. Rightfully so. That’s the quickest way for a QB to lose the locker room. If I were Kyler’s teammate, I would have had some choice words for him after the game. I also would have had some choice words to offer him every time he says after Cardinals’ losses that “I have always won”. It can come across as —- poor, poor Kyler being stuck on a team with a bunch of losers.

It seems that Kyler has little respect for the Cardinals and their organization. Now some would say with good reason, due to years of dysfunction in the locker room and on the field. But, if the Cardinals are going to change for the good, they need hard-nosed resilient leaders like Adrian Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald to want to be a part of the solution and not selfish divas to remain a part of the problem.

What Michael Bidwill also is very likely aware of are the reasons why Kyler pissed off and alienated Fitz. I have heard from two reliable sources that Kyler questioned Fitz as to why he “sold out” for the money to stay on a perennial loser like the Cardinals. Um, Fitz and A-Dub actually played in a Super Bowl. Of course, in light of Burkhardt’s tactics, the profound irony is that apparently the only condition for Kyler to stay a Cardinal is for the Cardinals to lavish him with the most lucrative contract in team history.

Thus, one could imagine that during that hot tempered meeting that Bidwill conducted with Keim and Kingsbury his concerns about Kyler’s leadership as the new face of the franchise were addressed —- which somehow was revealed by someone close to the situation to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

On the flip side, Kyler feels under-appreciated to the point of feeling scapegoated by the organization for the late season meltdown. Obviously, Kyler is not the only player to blame for what transpired, but his play in that Rams blowout was so poor that Warren Sapp said to Rick Eisen “that was no NFL QB we were watching in that game.”

Look —- it’s not the first time a promising young star-caliber QB turned in a complete dud in his first playoff performance. But —- compounding the worst performance of his career under the brightest of lights by refusing to finish the game with his teammates, despite Colt McCoy’s urgent advice for him to do the right thing and Kyler refusing anyway —- and then a couple of weeks later scrubbing his socials of all Cardinals’ related photos as harbinger to his agent’s ransom note —- does not do Kyler any favors with team ownership and with his teammates.

Fans have been arguing that Kyler’s teammates like J.J. Watt and Zach Ertz have been lauding Kyler. Yes, they have. But, they also have a high degree of motivation to want to see Kyler grow out of his immaturity. Rest assured, one would be hard pressed to find any of Kyler’s teammates who would condone and support his actions at the end of that Rams’ game, particularly J.J. Watt who made a herculean effort to come back as an inspiration to the team for that playoff game, a game that Watt would eventually describe as a “complete failure” on the Cardinals’ part.

Would it come as surprise if someone were to tell you that Colt McCoy has more of the trust of the locker room right now than Kyler? After all, Colt is the adult in the room and he tuned in two of the top three QB performances over the Cardinals last 10 games, while leading the team to huge NFC West road wins over the 49ers and Seahawks, without some key components like DeAndre Hopkins, Rodney Hudson and Chase Edmonds.

At this point, after being mostly a career backup, could Colt McCoy be a viable season-long starter for the Cardinals were Kyler to sit out or demand a trade? Colt showed a mastery of the offense in those NFC West road wins. He loves Kliff’s offense in which he feels like a natural fit. One question would be whether Colt could hold up physically. But, then again, that has been the question about Kyler. If Kyler demands a trade or sits out, would it be hard to imagine Colt’s teammates rallying around him?

As we know, the Cardinals have been doing their due diligence in meeting with some of the QBs in this year’s draft. They have met with Malik Willis, E.J.. Perry and Chris Oladokun and Brock Purdy. Plus, they have an in-house connection to Kenny Pickett in that Spencer Whipple’s dad Mark was the OC whom Pickett has lauded for his success at Pittsburgh.

The Cardinals appear to be poised to draft a QB this year. And there could be a surprise veteran out there who would jump at the chance of playing for Kliff.

One constant about Kliff that should be encouraging to all Cardinals’ fans is that no matter what players he’s had a QB, his offenses have been consistently productive.

The fact that the Cardinals have not made a contract offer to Kyler to date suggests that Kliff Kingsbury may not be as tied to Kyler as people think. Had Kliff been, one would think that he would have signed his extension under the condition that Kyler get his extension too. For right or for wrong, while Kliff would never say so publicly, it’s possible that Kliff is also frustrated by Kyler’s immaturity.

The one solace about Kyler Murray following the end of this season that many Cardinals’ fans such as myself felt was that this year’s ending to the season could have had a great way of humbling and motivating the young QB. To this day, in light of Kyler’s wanting to make this off-season all about him, there is evidence to suggest that Kyler has not been humbled in the least. The most ironic thing he said this off-season was “all my teammates know how hard I go.” Funny he would say that, when the last time his Cardinals’ teammates were with him on the sidelines, he was adamantly and by his own volition a “no go” at the end of the game.

The fact that Erik Burkhardt has carefully planned his media blitzes to coincide at the precise times leading up to the NFL Draft suggests that he is anticipating a potential trade scenario for his client. A trade prior to the draft is far more likely to occur and Burkhardt knows it. Why else would have Burkhardt been pushing his agenda so soon and so publicly into the off-season? He is sending out an SOS that his client could be had for the right price and he is getting exactly what he wants when pundits like Pelissero are now saying “other teams are taking notice.”

Burkhardt either believes that the possible trade threat may be the leverage that brokers the deal, or he believes that his client will be much better off on another team. When an agent threatens a team with ultimatums and implications of how cheap they are, he doesn’t care whether he’s possibly burning the bridge between his client and the team.

Now with the 2022 NFL Draft 13 days away, it appears that Erik Burkhardt wants Kyler Murray to be the talk of the Thursday night nationally televised extravaganza, for the second time in four years.

Pencil in next Thursday afternoon as the day of Burkhardt’s formal “sending out an SOS” trade demand.

Yes, one can expect 100 plus degree July afternoons in Tuscon, Arizona.

So, what is your “message in a bottle” to Kyler? To Bidwill?