Cardinals GM: It’s ‘so exciting’ to build around Kyler Murray while he’s still on his rookie contract

In just two NFL seasons, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has 7,693 yards, 46 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions, while adding 1,363 rushing yards and 15 additional scores on 226 carries. In NFL history, only four other players have thrown for 5,000 or more yards and rushed for 1,000 or more yards through their first two seasons: Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, and Josh Allen. 

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim knows he has a potentially special player on his hands, and knows how valuable it is that rather than being paid like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, Murray is set to have the 124th-highest cap hit in the league ($9,763,721) during the upcoming 2021 season. 

“With a guy like Kyler Murray, the thing that is so exciting for me is having the opportunity to build around a young player, a guy you can grow with as an organization and as a roster,” Keim said. “And there are different things you can do, especially with a rookie contract, as opposed to a veteran who is making a considerable part of your salary cap.”

Because Murray is making less than $10 million a year, the Cardinals have been able to bring in DeAndre Hopkins (signed to a two-year, $54 million extension) and J.J. Watt (two years, $28 million) in back to back offseasons. They had enough room to trade for former Raiders center Rodney Hudson, and they probably still have enough room to lavish Chandler Jones with the contract extension he wants and largely deserves. 

Those are the benefits of finding a quarterback who can play at an average or better level while still on his rookie deal. If Murray can take the next step to becoming something like a top 10 quarterback, the Cardinals will only benefit even more — at least for the next two years, while he is still relatively cheap compared to other top passers. Then, it’ll come time to build around one of those larger veteran deals.

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