Pat Leonard: Kyler Murray ‘homework’ clause an embarrassment for Cardinals, even after its removal

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America/TNS
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The Arizona Cardinals did irreparable damage this week to their credibility while simultaneously shaming quarterback Kyler Murray.

The team successfully included an “independent study” clause in Murray’s new contract that demanded four hours of homework a week to avoid defaulting on the agreement.

“Never seen that before,” one executive said.

The clause specified that Murray would not receive credit for studying on an iPad if he was simultaneously playing video games, watching TV or surfing the internet.

Then the information leaked before Murray’s contract even had officially hit the NFL players union’s league-wide database.

Some league sources believe Arizona owner Michael Bidwill was behind the idea to send his franchise QB that message, perhaps in response to agent Erik Burkhardt’s page-long February statement urging Arizona to pay Murray because “actions speak louder than words.”

Regardless, it did way more harm than good.

Not only is it clear the Cardinals don’t believe Murray works hard enough. The organization just demonstrated it is willing to pay a player who doesn’t work hard enough to lead them.

The public blowback was so swift that Arizona already has agreed to remove the clause from Murray’s contract.

“Because it doesn’t just make Kyler look bad. It makes the team look bad, too,” one source said.

But the damage already was done in more ways than one.

From the perspective of many NFL agents, Murray’s contract was a step back for quarterbacks.

Deshaun Watson just got $230 million fully guaranteed from the Cleveland Browns despite sexual assault allegations that are threatening his 2022 season.

Murray’s $230.5 million in new money contains only $103.3 million in full guarantees, with up to $160 million in guarantees available, plus contingencies, per overthecap.com.

Even with the “homework” clause removed, for example, a startling $9.3 million of Murray’s money is tied to workout bonuses. It’s an average of $1.6 million from 2024 through 2028.

“That’s high for a franchise quarterback,” one source said.

To compare, Buffalo’s Josh Allen averages $750,000 per year in workout bonuses in his new deal. Patrick Mahomes has a flat $550,000 annually all the way through with Kansas City.

The decision to include the clause also reflects a ridiculous lack of judgment from the Cardinals’ brass of Bidwill, GM Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury, assuming all three knew the clause was in there.

There is no justification for paying a player big money if the team has to insert a clause that indicates they don’t trust his work ethic to begin with.

Burkhardt, who also represents Kingsbury, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Obviously, every agent prefers to avoid contingencies if they can. So clearly, this was the price to get Murray’s deal done.

“Obviously something that’s happened in the past led to them putting it in there,” one source said.

Murray held a press conference to defend himself once the news leaked. The Cardinals released a statement that tried to blame the media for creating a distraction.

But this was a mess of their own making. This is bad business. And the Cardinals’ early actions speak louder than their most recent words.