8:15pm: And like that, the clause is no more. Rapoport tweets that the Cardinals have removed the “independent study” clause in Murray’s contract.
“After seeing the distraction it created, we removed the addendum from the contract,” the Cardinals said in a statement (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter). “It was clearly perceived in ways that were never intended. Our confidence in Kyler Murray is as high as it’s ever been and nothing demonstrates our belief in his ability to lead this team more than the commitment reflected in this contract.”
1:25pm: In making Kyler Murray the NFL’s second-highest-paid quarterback, the Cardinals included an independent study clause in his contract. The strange inclusion mandates the fourth-year passer watch at least four hours of film on his own per week during the season, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
Understandably, this unusual mandate has generated more attention than the five-year, $230.5MM deal itself. Addressing this matter Thursday, Murray said questions about his film-study habits are “disrespectful” and “almost a joke,” via CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones (all Twitter links).
“There’s multiple different ways to watch film. Of course we all watch film. That doesn’t need to be questioned,” Murray said, before declining to answer questions related to the film clause. “I refuse to let my work ethic and my preparation be in question. I’ve put in an incomprehensible amount of time in what I do, whether it’s football or baseball.”
Murray himself has admitted in the past he is unlikely to be a top-tier film studier among quarterbacks, making comments to the New York Times about his habits. Given his importance to the franchise, this December 2021 stance may well have been a factor for the Cardinals during their offseason negotiations.
“I think I was blessed with the cognitive skills to just go out there and just see it before it happens,” Murray said, via NYT’s Ben Shpigel, last year. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head, I see so much.”
The two-time Pro Bowler declined to say if he was mad about this film-study component of his contract, but the Cardinals going so far as to include it their highest-profile extension reveals at least some level of hesitancy about the dual-threat passer’s commitment. This is not the first piece of atypical language in a Murray contract. His rookie deal protected the Cardinals against a return to baseball, a sport he was ticketed to play — as a top-10 Oakland Athletics draftee — before his 2018 Heisman-winning season changed his career course. That transition has now led to Murray securing a monster extension — one featuring $104.3MM guaranteed at signing.
It is certainly interesting that, despite the reports of the acrimony between the fourth-year QB and the Cardinals dying down, Murray has needed to address this matter after the team made this financial commitment. Generally, talk of discontent between player and team recedes in the wake of big-ticket extension agreements. But it is clear Murray, who has followed up fast starts with suboptimal end-of-season stretches in each of his Pro Bowl years, will struggle to distance himself from this story. The Cardinals, who have never authorized a contract remotely close to this neighborhood, stand to be regularly tied to this language as well.