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.
The #Cardinals have yet to make a contract offer to Pro Bowl QB Kyler Murray, whose agent, Erik Burkhardt, informed the team weeks ago he was pulling his opening proposal off the table, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 14, 2022
Other teams are monitoring closely; Arizona insists Murray won’t be traded.
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.
#Penderpoll .. for #WeAreTexans fans, would you be in favor of a Texans trade for Kyler Murray (assuming you’d have to give up multiple 1st round picks and pay him $40M+ per year) @SportsRadio610— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) April 15, 2022
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.
#Penderpoll … which of these four young NFL QBs — all of whom are in line for big extensions right now or within a year — would you MOST WANT TO trade three first round picks for, and then pay a top of market contract to? @SportsRadio610— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) April 15, 2022
VOTE (age in Wk1 ‘22 in parentheses):
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.