Sean Pendergast

Deshaun Watson's Contract Has Poisoned the NFL

Kyler Murray might be the next big name quarterback on the move.
Kyler Murray might be the next big name quarterback on the move. Screen grab from YouTube
The decision for NFL teams to extend quarterbacks had already been complicated enough before Deshaun Watson's whole saga with the Houston Texans began last January, just five months after signing his four year, $156 million extension. Extensions given to Carson Wentz and Jared Goff in 2019, both of which ended in failure and with both on new teams, were already a warning sign.

Then came Deshaun Watson's new deal that came in conjunction with his trade to the Cleveland Browns — five years, $230 million, fully guaranteed for a guy who has 22 women suing him for sexual misconduct — and now it is a brave new world, where only owners and GM's with strong stomachs will survive.

To that end, at least two teams have had their long term relationships with their quarterbacks complicated by the Watson deal. The Baltimore Ravens are at a standstill with former league MVP Lamar Jackson, and more acrimoniously, the Cardinals and their quarterback, Kyler Murray, are barely talking right now. The latest from the NFL Network's Tom Pelissero spelled this out late last week:
If you can't read between the lines, I'll do it for you — Watson's new deal has changed the calculus for agents and quarterbacks, but teams are digging in and trying to treat Watson's deal as a one-off desperation plunge by a circus franchise in the Cleveland Browns. In short, Watson's resume (not to mention his alleged rap sheet) don't really justify his monster deal. Watson has won one playoff game in his career. Thus, the bar for guys wanting a similar deal is lower than it should be.

Murray is decidedly below that bar. While he's made a couple Pro Bowls, he has won zero playoff games, and on top of that, he has a reputation, deserved or not, for being a bit moody and lacking in leadership chops. If you want further evidence that a team should be very cautious in paying Murray anything close to what Watson makes, look at the results of this poll in which Texan fans overwhelmingly say they want nothing to do with Murray:
EIGHT NINE PERCENT SAY NO WAY! This is a fan base whose unquestioned starter in 2022 is Davis freaking Mills! How things end with Murray and the Cardinals is going to be a fascinating watch. As for Jackson, my guess is that he and the Ravens will find some common ground. The Ravens are, simply put, a much better run franchise than the Cardinals.

The fact of the matter is Jackson's and Murray's situations might end up paling in comparison to the potential contract extensions for the Chargers' Justin Herbert and the Bengals' Joe Burrow after the 2022 season, when each has completed their third seasons and are eligible for contract extensions. In another poll, football fans say that if their team could choose from the four quarterbacks mentioned in this post — Jackson, Murray, Herbert, and Burrow — they would choose Burrow overwhelmingly (55 percent), and Herbert next:
As of right now, both Burrow and Herbert seem to be in great situations, and I would think that their respective teams' owners and front offices would gladly lock them in at some stratospheric numbers, especially the Bengals, who went to a Super Bowl with Burrow under center. However, there is a rule in the NFL bylaws that states that owners must put any guaranteed money promised to a player in escrow. So if a team guarantees a player, say, $230 million, that owner has to put $230 million of his or her cash in an escrow account.

That rule might prove somewhat problematic for the owners of the Bengals or Chargers, who are both family owned franchises that are notoriously cheap. I would doubt either team would let that rule be the reason they trade either Burrow or Herbert, but it's worth monitoring, especially as a Texans fan. Perhaps the day comes where Nick Caserio can flip the picks he got from the Deshaun Watson trade for an established, high level quarterback.

That would be the ultimate irony — Deshaun Watson's new contract he got when the Texans traded him away was  so toxic that it forced another team to trade the Texans Watson's replacement.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast