Yahoo Sports’ Senior NFL Writer Charles Robinson and The Athletic’s Tashan Reed discuss the “Independent Study” clause that was included in Kyler Murray’s massive contract extension. Why would the Cardinals leak this? Charles has his conspiracy theory, and it starts at the top. Hear the full conversation on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen.
CHARLES ROBINSON: We've got to dive into Kyler Murray just for a second. I know-- look, I know it's not your beat. I know it's not your beat. But I've covered the league now for more than 20 years. And I don't think I've ever seen a study hall clause.
We've heard the stories before-- the JaMarcus Russell, hey, we sent tapes home with you. What'd you think of 'em? And there's nothing on the tapes. The Bo Callahan jokes from "Draft Day"-- taped the $100 bill at the back of the playbook.
The Cardinals, in a way, kind of aired out Kyler Murray, not just saying, hey, we expect you to prove in some fashion that you're studying game tape when you go home during the regular season for the upcoming opponent, but you can't be watching this while you're playing video games. You can't be watching this while you're watching TV. I'm like, there's a lot of specificity in this clause.
I mean, when you first heard this, I was shocked. At first, I kind of thought, like, is this real? Like, is this a fake account? Like, did somebody just tweet something out that's not legitimate? No, it's completely legitimate.
TASHAN REED: Yeah, I thought it was a joke initially. But once they said it was real, it was just wild to see. I mean, we've kind of heard the murmurs about Kyler Murray and maybe them being not all the way pleased with his preparation and how seriously he takes the game. I always thought that was kind of more so noise.
I think we've heard that on both sides throughout-- since his college days. You know, since he is playing baseball, maybe he's not all the way into football. Or since he's playing football, maybe he's not into baseball. And they're all just sort of questioning how committed he is to the sport that he plays and risks his life and limb for on the field.
But I mean, I would have to think there's something to it, right? I mean, they're not putting this much specific wording into his contract, the NFL contract just because, right? Like, he must have been slacking off. But it just seems like something is amiss there.
I mean, for him, I mean, I don't really know how they're going to-- like, who's tracking these hours? Like, is he--
CHARLES ROBINSON: Right. [LAUGHS]
TASHAN REED: Like, who-- is he self-reporting this? Are they going to have, like, a team employee watching him to make sure he gets his four hours in every week? I would hope that he was doing that anyway, right? Like, I mean, for him to be playing pretty well when he's on the field and healthy, if he's doing that without spending four hours on preparation and--
CHARLES ROBINSON: Four. Four hours.
TASHAN REED: So I guess he's just the most talented quarterback in the league then, I guess. But it was interesting for sure, especially your starting quarterback. You know, this is-- every team, they looked at [AUDIO OUT] to be their unquestioned leader. And to have those kind of concerns, I guess, about their work ethic while you're also handing them an over $200 million contract is kind of a weird dynamic to have playing out at the same time.
CHARLES ROBINSON: Well, not only that, I mean, Steve Keim, he's been around the block. He's a general manager that-- he's seasoned. He knows what's going on. He knew what deal they were about to sign.
He knew it would be scrutinized, right? So that's going to be a line for line thing. Everybody's going to look through it. They know every clause is going to come through.
So they knew when they put this in here, they knew it was going to be seen, OK? And I don't know any general manager who lasts as long as Steve Keim has-- I don't know any general manager who goes, this is a good idea. Like, this is something that will be missed, or this is something that will be overlooked. No, general managers know that. I don't think-- Kliff Kingsbury doesn't strike me as the kind of head coach that's like, yeah, let's go ahead and let's put him on blast as far as what we feel about how he's preparing, or what might be getting in the way or whatever.
My conspiracy is, this is Bidwill. This is ownership sitting there going, we're not psyched to sign a $230.5 million contract here. We're not psyched to hand out $160 million in guarantees, depending on how you feel about those guarantees, which are basically guarantees for injury. We're not psyched to have to write this paycheck up front. Few owners are.
So I have to believe that prior to that taking place-- and I can tell you I know when they entered into negotiations, and early in the offseason, when Erik Burkhardt, the agent for Kyler Murray, made some strong moves, put a statement out, kind of put the Cardinals on Front Street, essentially pushing the deal as hard as he could as the offseason began, to the point that behind the scenes, Steve Keim's saying to everybody, like, this is going to get done. Like, why are we doing it like this? This is-- like, he didn't understand what the stance was.
I think it was because-- and I feel like I know this-- it was because Erik Burkhardt was a little worried about ownership. Like, is ownership going to actually do this? Is Bidwill really going to sign this check and dole the money out, cash over cap, to get this guy signed? And do I have to apply some pressure here?
I think on the other end of it, when I saw that clause, I thought, nope, that's ownership. I am sure Bidwill at some point-- and he's very involved in that franchise, he is not a hands-off guy-- whatever he may have heard, whatever questions he might have had in his mind, I think his thought process was-- and this is speculating, me here, but I think this is pretty informed speculation-- was him saying, yeah, OK, I'll sign that. But we're putting every single thing in there. Like, I want every ounce of-- you know, whatever he's got, I want him all the way in.
I don't want to hear about baseball anymore. I don't want to read about somebody saying he's still thinking about baseball or any of this other nonsense. We are paying him more money than he might have made in baseball. So I want everything in there.
And if you're Steve Keim, you're sitting there going, probably not a great idea. [LAUGHS] But I'm going to go ahead and go through with this. And I'm going to let Erik Burkhardt try to do damage control on the other end because a day like today happens, where we're all on Twitter going, what the [BLEEP] does this mean? This is crazy.