Last month, I set out some guidelines of what a Russell Wilson extension could look like. The core aim was to settle in at an APY neatly in between that of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, but still giving Wilson cash flow and guarantee structures that would be at or near the top of the NFL.
However, I also said this:
There are also plenty of other quarterbacks that could push metrics up with their own extensions. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert will be eligible for such for the first time after this season, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray will be pushing for their own extensions, and even Baker Mayfield could make things move if he proves his first overall pick pedigree given that he got a fresh start in Charlotte just last Wednesday. Wilson could benefit more if any of those players sign contracts beforehand.
Well, Kyler Murray did just that on July 22. And this contract now makes it clear that what I set out last month as a possibility no longer is so.
Kyler Murray set new metrics near the top for above average play
Murray has done well for himself since choosing football over baseball, being drafted 1st overall by the Cardinals, and after three seasons in the NFL. But while his play has steadily improved, which is always a positive sign, his play has yet to move up to the highest tier of quarterback play. He has yet to throw for over 4,000 yards or over 30 touchdowns, and his passer rating over three seasons is 84.7, 94.3, and 100.6. For more advanced analysis, according to DYAR and DVOA from Football Outsiders, Murray has always played above replacement, and crossed above average in his second season. Murray only just broke into the top ten last season, ranking 9th in DYAR (over 14 games) and 7th in DVOA. Over The Cap’s valuation, meanwhile, had Murray valued 14th among quarterbacks in 2021. And of course, Murray has only one playoff appearance, a loss, to his record as of now.
But none of this should matter entirely when it’s time for a quarterback to be extended, and it did not with Murray. Let’s take a look at each metric to see how.
Average Per Year (APY)
At $46.1 million per year, Murray successfully edged out Deshaun Watson’s recent contract, coming in at second only to Aaron Rodgers at $50 million. Now, one could argue that when accounting for old money on his rookie contract, it’s more like $265 million over seven years, which would equate to about $37.8 million APY. But the same old money argument could be made for a Wilson extension, as he is currently due $27 million in 2023. Take that out of the extension I proposed, and the APY craters to $38.6 million. That’s wildly inaccurate.
This is a metric where Murray did not exceptionally cross. I had placed Wilson’s guarantees at $106 million in full, with a total of $180 million in vesting guarantees through Years 3 and 4. On the basic numbers, Murray got $103.3 million in full guarantees, boosted up to $161 million with vesting. And to say the least, Deshaun Watson’s highly unusual and perverse fully guaranteed contract did not change the game at all. Furthermore, as Jason Fitzgerald breaks down further in his thoughts on Murray’s extension, Murray’s guarantee structure looks less favorable when judged on a per year basis.
However, it is here, the metric that I consider highly underrated by NFL observers, where Murray’s contract really shines. To review, the cash flow in the extension I had pondered for Wilson was as follows:
- Year 1: $69.4 million
- Year 2: $100 million
- Year 3: $140 million
- Year 4: $180 million
In citing Jason’s breakdown again, this time I’ll replicate most of the cash flow table that he produced, to exceptionally highlight how well Murray did here:
|Player||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5||Year 6|
|Aaron Rodgers||$42,000,000||$101,515,000||$150,815,000||Free Agent||—||—|
|Kyler Murray||$72,657,640||$105,265,140||$147,807,640||$184,142,640||$230,500,000||Free Agent|
|Deshaun Watson||$46,000,000||$92,000,000||$138,000,000||$184,000,000||$230,000,000||Free Agent|
|Derek Carr||$38,122,481||$80,122,481||$121,422,481||Free Agent||—||—|
|Dak Prescott||$75,000,000||$95,000,000||$126,000,000||$160,000,000||Free Agent||—|
|Matt Stafford||$66,000,000||$97,000,000||$129,000,000||$160,000,000||Free Agent||—|
Murray’s cash flow consistently exceeds what I proposed for Wilson by a range from about $3.2 million to almost $8 million over each season. Murray also is the league leader in Years 2 and 4. Given what Wilson has accomplished in his career as opposed to Murray, there is no plausible reason Wilson should accept any cash flow that is inferior to Murray.
A revised, even more massive sample contract
As before, I am presuming that an extension will not be agreed upon until after the 2022 season.
|Year||Base Salary||Prorated Bonus||Roster Bonus||Cap Number|
italics – fully guaranteed salary
At $241 million over five seasons, $48.2 million APY is about the lowest I can feasibly slot for Wilson at this point. This is roughly the midpoint between Rodgers and Murray. The Broncos may very well need to add a few million onto the later seasons that would boost the APY up to $49 million, or perhaps even matching or surpassing Rodgers above $50 million APY.
With cash flow, the only year that isn’t league leading for Wilson is the first year. By tweaking the 2023 base salary to $15.3 million and the signing bonus to $58.5 million (and thus keeping Wilson’s cap number at $27 million), this gives him $73.8 million after 2023, once again a midpoint between Murray and this time Dak Prescott at $75 million.
But in Years 2 through 4, Wilson surpasses everyone with $106 million, $151 million, and $196 million–the current benchmarks being $105.265 million (Murray), $150.815 million (the entirety of Rodgers’s three year contract) and $184.142 million (Murray again). It is this type of cash flow that I could see as a satisfactory tradeoff in exchange for APY concessions.
As for guarantees, the higher early cash flow for Wilson can also be exchanged for more favorable vesting structures for the Broncos. Fully guaranteeing the $106 million in the first two years surpasses Murray at $103.3 million. One suitable vesting trigger soon after the start of the 2025 league year should also surpass Murray with Wilson’s entire base salary that season, plus a 2026 roster bonus that is moved out of otherwise consistent pay of $45 million in his last three seasons.
This is the type of raise that Murray has likely forced the Broncos into. And it may not stop there: Lamar Jackson could sign an extension any day, and after 2022 concludes, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert will no longer need to wait for new contracts. And this is why I think it’s in Wilson’s best interest to plan to provide outstanding play in 2022 first, in order to create more leverage come 2023.