They were teammates at Oklahoma. They won the Heisman Trophy in consecutive years. They were the No. 1 overall picks in 2018 and 2019. And they remain close friends.
A year ago, Mayfield was where Murray is. The window had opened for a new contract between Mayfield and the Browns. The talks never went anywhere, quite possibly because the player wanted something in the neighborhood of $40 million per year and the team wanted to pay something closer to $30 million per year. Mayfield played without a new contract, injured his shoulder in Week Two, struggled for the rest of the season, and ultimately found himself kicked to the curb — after the team apparently told him he’d be the guy during his option year.
Murray approaches his fourth NFL season in a similar posture. Although the team has yet to make an offer, Murray’s agent has submitted a proposal. Undoubtedly, Murray wants much more than the Cardinals will pay.
Unless the Cardinals are willing to trade Murray (and for now there’s no reason to believe that they will), the two sides are headed for an inevitable impasse. How Will Murray handle his side of it? He’ll quite possibly get advice from Mayfield, who quite possibly will tell him to do whatever he has to do to get his financial protection, and to trust no one along the way.
During his recent podcast appearance, Mayfield said the NFL is “a snaky f–king business.” In recent months, Mayfield has experienced the worst of it. Murray could end up going through the same kind of thing.
He already is. Remember the Super Sunday Splash Report! from ESPN that Murray is viewed as self-centered, finger-pointing, and immature? What if that came directly from the upper reaches of team management, as part of a clunky effort to soften his demands?
It won’t be easy for the two sides to find a middle ground, especially with the top of the quarterback market now featuring a spread of roughly $20 million among the 10 highest-paid players. Murray, who fought through an ankle injury late last year, wants his payday while he’s still healthy enough to get it. The Cardinals won’t want to assume the nine figures in injury risk for an undersized quarterback whose game changes dramatically when his mobility is limited.
Is there a middle ground? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, Murray’s mindset surely will be influenced by the lessons learned during Mayfield’s misadventures with a historically dysfunctional franchise that may have dysfunctioned up the first phase of Mayfield’s career.