Armando Salguero: These NFL Stars Want Contract Extensions So Teams May Consider Trades As Draft Approaches

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Professional football is a contact sport, but over the past couple of weeks, it has been more of a contract sport.

We say this because all across the league, in outposts such as San Francisco, Arizona, Washington, Tennessee, Los Angeles and other places, teams are dealing with the contract issues of some very important players.

Star players.

All of those stars are under contract. But they all want extensions.

Big ones.

These talks have not yet yielded deals, frustrations have grown, and the NFL draft looms next week. So there is a real and serious possibility some team might decide to trade away a player wanting an extension in exchange for a cheaper draft pick or picks — perhaps even when they’re on the clock on draft day.

Not likely?

Did anyone expect Tyreek Hill, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Davante Adams to be traded this offseason?

Right now, Arizona’s Kyler Murray, Tennessee’s A.J. Brown, Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf, Washington’s Terry McLaurin, Buffalo’s Jordan Poyer, and San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel are very much in the headlines because of their contract situations.

All want extensions to carry them beyond the 2022 season when their current deals are set to expire.

And included with those expectations is some drama that has led to absences during voluntary offseason conditioning programs, talks of trades in the media and social media, and even some not too subtle disenchantment from the players or their agents.

Let’s begin with Murray because he’s a quarterback, and everything about the NFL starts with the quarterback.

Murray did not attend voluntary workouts with the Cardinals when they began Tuesday. It’s not known whether he’s skipping the program because of his contract status, but it is known he wants a new deal that will pay him on par with other top quarterbacks who are now getting anywhere from $25 million (Tom Brady) to $50 million (Aaron Rodgers) per year.

Murray is scheduled to get around $6.2 million this year once a $4.5 million roster bonus comes due in August, per overthecap.com.

So Murray, who has improved steadily his first three seasons and last year helped the Cardinals get to the playoffs, wants to multiply his salary by maybe six or seven times. Except the Cardinals have so far not moved very quickly on that front.

So Murray, obviously frustrated, scrubbed all mention of the Cardinals from his social media accounts a few weeks back. And then his agent Erik Burkhardt, who had made an initial offer to the team, pulled the offer and released a statement on the matter:

“We sent a detailed contract proposal to the organization,” Burkhardt wrote. “It was important to Kyler that his proposal reflected all of the following: provides financial protection, is in-line with the current quarterback market that compares his results alongside relevant comps, lowers his 2022-23 salary cap number to allow the Cardinals to re-sign other deserving teammates and add additional free agents.

“And most importantly represents a real commitment from the organization to see if their ultimate goals align with his — consistently competing for championships and Kyler being their quarterback.”

Murray’s frustration is that the Cardinals have handled other business while other teams, such as the Raiders, have handled business at other positions and at the quarterback position.

And how is this one going to play out? The Cardinals have no intention of moving on from Murray, even as rumors of him not reporting to camp without a new deal swirl in the desert.

So what’s Murray worth? He’s good, but not yet great. He’s promising, but hasn’t yet fulfilled that promise. If the right number were obvious to everyone, an extension would be done already.

The wide receiver market has exploded this offseason. With Hill and Adams respectively getting deals worth $30 million and $28 million per year on average, the agents for other star receivers in the final year of their deals now want similar numbers in extension talks.

This has mostly affected the star receivers who came out in the 2019 draft and were picked outside the first round. Those receivers signed four-year deals. So they are about to enter the final year of their rookie contracts.

And all want big paydays — arguably because all have earned it.

Samuel wants at least $25 million per year from San Francisco or another team if he’s traded, but he has not formally requested a trade, per a source. That could be coming soon, however, the source added. It’s not known what Brown, McLaurin and Metcalf want, but other agents speculate that anything under $20 million per year won’t be enough to get any of these players signed to an extension.

That creates something of an issue for some teams because they either aren’t ready to make such deals for salary cap reasons, or they might not be ready to commit that much to the receiver position when other issues loom.

In Washington, for example, the Commanders have yet to engage McLaurin in meaningful talks because their timetable is likely after June 1, when they clear nearly $12 million in new cap space from the Landon Collins post-June 1 release.

And why should the Commanders consider McLaurin a viable candidate for an extension? Because in his first three years, McLaurin was the second-most productive receiver selected in the ’19 draft and signed to a four-year contract.

He is second, behind only Metcalf, with 3,090 receiving yards. And he is second, behind only Diontae Johnson of the Steelers, with 222 receptions.

This while playing on a Washington team that has fielded a turnstile at quarterback. Eight different QBs threw passes to McLaurin the past three seasons.

The Samuel situation is interesting because he has an injury history and isn’t a prototypical receiver. But he’s very, very, very productive when healthy.

That makes it hard for a San Francisco team that is also weighing how to pay defensive end Nick Bosa soon.

“That’s complicated stuff that I don’t want to have to figure out,” coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters at the NFL annual meeting. “It’s hard to figure it out. But we need to figure it out.”

Last season, Samuel put on something of a show deserving an extension.

He had 1,405 receiving yards.

And 365 rushing yards.

He scored six receiving touchdowns. And eight rushing touchdowns.

So he wants to get paid. But he’s grown very frustrated with the 49ers failing to move forward. So he scrubbed some of the San Francisco mentions from his social media.

And when some fans showed their darker side while commenting on his situation, Samuel released a video on Instagram in which he said he’s been receiving death threats.

Brown, perhaps the most consistent of all the receivers wanting an extensions, scrubbed all Tennessee Titans references from his social media biographies this week.

This is apparently the universal move of discontent in 2022.

The Titans have consistently said they have every intention of keeping Brown — perhaps signing him to an extension in June or early July.

But while the Titans were 1-3 without Brown in 2021, there are also persistent rumors the team might trade him rather than pay him.

Those rumors have circulated about all the receivers, frankly. And the New York Jets, which definitely tried to trade for Metcalf but were rebuffed, have been tied to all those trade rumors.

And why so much talk of trading?

Because some teams have already traded away a receiver who wants $20 million or more a year for multiple draft picks. There is precedent. And because the draft next week would be a perfect opportunity to make such a trade if someone believes doing that is better business than committing to the big contract extension.

That’s what the Kansas City Chiefs did with Hill. And they might not be the last to do it.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

One Comment

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  1. I’m sure one thing bringing hesitation about a long term contract for Brown is injury proneness. I like him, but the facts are he’s missed 6 games the last 2 years with injuries as a WR, and these are the years when you bounce back fastest. Injuries happen, but that can’t help but start worrying a team about durability. If you’re going to back a dump truck full of cash up to a skill player’s door you want to be fairly confident they’ll be on the field unless a leg falls off. I expect the Titans to sign him, but I get the hesitation too.

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