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NFL Insider notebook: Predicting likely outcomes for contract situations of Kyler Murray, Aaron Donald, more

Written by on May 20, 2022

The lingering offseason drama in the NFL has surrounded quarterbacks, almost exclusively.

Who knows where Baker Mayfield will land, and when he will land there, and how much of his salary the Browns will eat to facilitate the move. If Jimmy Garoppolo can in fact ramp up a throwing program in July after his shoulder surgery, then where will he go? How many games will DeShaun Watson miss due to suspension, and when will we learn of that discipline?

There is still much to unfold, and just because things seem a little quiet right now in the lull between the draft and mandatory mini camps, that doesn’t mean that all is well. There are most definitely some key players around this league mulling whether or not they will take part in “voluntary” or mandatory offseason work, whether or not they will execute a “hold-in” (i.e. show up but basically withhold football services) or whether they might go public with a trade demand.

Don’t conflate the relative lack of outward strife with the concept that things are honkey dory. In many cases, it’s not. There are most definitely some players who I will be monitoring very closely in the coming months – for what they say and what they do; or what they scrub from their social media – and there are no shortage of situations that will require a delicate touch whether in regards to a new contract, capitulating to a request to leave town, dealing with a holdout … or all of the above.

These are some of the instances where things could very well get worse before they get better, if they do in fact get better at all:

Kyler Murray

His desire for a top-of-market new contract after three up-and-down seasons since being selected first overall are well known by now. This has been the most overt of the conflicts, with Murray expunging all references to the team from his social media and his representation publishing a manifesto about the need for the Cardinals to pay him. It’s calmed down some since then, and landing his former college teammate Hollywood Brown was a nice touch, but paying Murray upwards of $45M a year is a very risky proposition. Durability and productivity are in question.

Likely outcome: Ownership gave embattled head coach Kliff Kingsbury a new deal, and I suspect Murray ends up getting paid, too, though the full guarantees and payout structure will be fascinating.

At this point all parties seem resigned to the fact that a new deal is highly unlikely. Owner Steve Bisciotti doesn’t seem up to stroke a check for $200M, and short of guaranteeing around $250M I don’t see Jackson engaging in much contract talk. Baltimore’s offer before the start of last season got them nowhere and was worth around just $35M a year, as I have been reporting since February, and the QB market has exploded again since then.

Likely outcome: Franchise tag for 2023, and beyond that who knows.

Lamar Jackson

At this point all parties seem resigned to the fact that a new deal is highly unlikely. Owner Steve Bisciotti doesn’t seem up to stroke a check for $200M, and short of guaranteeing around $250M I don’t see Jackson engaging in much contract talk. Baltimore’s offer before the start of last season got them nowhere and was worth around just $35M a year, as I have been reporting since February, and the QB market has exploded again since then.

Likely outcome: Franchise tag for 2023, and beyond that who knows.

Russell Wilson

With two years left on his deal, and the Broncos putting their franchise in his hands, now would be the time to pay him again. The price will only go up, especially if he has an MVP season, and Denver faces the specter of having to use a tag in 2024, gulp. To have that sort of uncertainty for a young, QB-centric head coach seems silly to me, and you don’t make a trade like this unless you intend on securing the QB long-term. The Broncos murky ownership situation perhaps clouds this a bit, or drags it out, but I can’t see it getting deep into the season.

Likely outcome: Massive extension

Deebo Samuel

What a time to be an elite receiver. And on a team headed to a pivotal season with Super Bowl aspirations and a very inexperienced quarterback. The 49ers did not get what it would have taken to lure him away at the draft, and anyone meeting that price now seems unlikely (and those 2023 draft picks won’t help win any games this season). The 49ers have never been shy about paying their top guys, and Samuel has done a nice job of forcing the issue. A holdout would stunt Trey Lance‘s growth at QB. Yeah he wanted out, but he wants to get generational wealth beyond that, and somewhere around $23-$25M a year should get that done. With the QB making peanuts, now is the time to do it.

Likely outcome: Massive extension

Aaron Donald

Never discount the power of the retirement card when in the hands of a transformational talent. Donald is one of the best defensive tackles in league history, any Rams attempt to repeat as Super Bowl champs would be foiled without him, and everyone knows it. This owner spent $5B to build his own stadium. He’s got the coin, and he is not averse to spending it on payroll. Could take some time, because we all know Donald wouldn’t see a snap in the preseason, anyway, but there seems to be only one real endgame here:

Likely outcome: Massive extension

Terry McLaurin

This could get explosive, I believe. He has been the Washington offense, without legit QB play or a consistent run game. He is the leader and alpha on that side of the ball. He is durable and exceptional. The Titans eventually moved AJ Brown in large degree, I’m told, because he wasn’t in peak for enough (topping out around 70-percent of the snaps). Scary Terry is an 80-90% guy and never had a Derrick Henry, or even peak Tannehill. The fact that we haven’t heard a peep about them getting anywhere near a trade should scare Commanders fans, given how much the WR market has shifted this offseason and how much turmoil we have already seen at that position. Does this franchise have the bedside manner and nuance to handle this situation if it gets dicey? And I can’t help but wonder if at least one more receiver gets dealt (DK Metcalf could be that guy as well).

Likely outcome: I can’t rule out a trade here. You have to consider this franchise and its leadership at the highest level.

Robert Quinn

I continue to hear that Quinn wants out of Chicago – and who could blame him? – and there are a host of interested teams. Bears brass has told everyone he ain’t going anywhere, but they will keep asking and that’s not lost on the veteran defensive end. The Bears look hapless, they dealt fellow veteran pass rusher Khalil Mack already, and Akiem Hicks doesn’t seem likely at all to be back. Team is in transition under new management, Quinn is coming off a monster season with 18.5 sacks. He just turned 32 and wants to win, and he is also an absolute steal this season ($13M); if he gets dealt the next team would likely sweeten the pot with incentives if nothing else. If the Bears are as bad as I expect, this will only fester, and he could be the prize of the trade-deadline market if nothing else (fetching more than Von Miller a year ago I believe).

Likely outcome: Trade