Kyler Murray’s new deal impacts Cleveland Browns, AFC North

June 14, 2022; Tempe, Arizona; USA; Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws during camp at the Tempe training facility.Nfl Cardinals Mandatory Camp At Arizona Cardinals
June 14, 2022; Tempe, Arizona; USA; Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws during camp at the Tempe training facility.Nfl Cardinals Mandatory Camp At Arizona Cardinals /
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Cleveland Browns
May 26, 2022; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) participates in organized team activities at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

What about the Steelers?

We have thus far left Pittsburgh out of the discussion. They’re currently chugging along without their leader of the past 18 years, Ben Roethlisberger. In his place is a quarterback of the future in Kenny Pickett, a bridge quarterback of the present in Mitchell Trubisky, and a backup for eternity in Mason Rudolph.

At present, none of them figure to be a huge financial burden to the Steelers for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, their cap is even more messed up than anyone else’s because they have $30 million in “dead money” that they are paying to players no longer on the team, including Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Stephon Tuitt, Eric Ebron, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Zach Banner.

The Steelers, you see, have been guilty of financial voodoo themselves, signing players on the “play now, pay later” plan using extra bonus years to allow them to afford players that couldn’t fit within their cap. Well, later is happening now.

Spending $30 million dollars for a star quarterback may be questionable. Spending $30 million for players that aren’t even on the team has got to be ten times worse. That’s the situation that the Steelers find themselves in for 2022.

It’s not the fact that they are saving plenty of money on the quarterback. They are spending more money than the Browns, but their guy (Roethlisberger) isn’t even suiting up and they are still paying him. So how smart do you Steeler fans feel your front office is based on getting themselves in this situation?

Still, the Steelers’ cap situation will presumably fix itself in 2023, and they will be able to rebuild around their core values of defense and ball control. If Pickett is their quarterback, he’s probably a game manager guy, not a blitzkrieg mad bomber type. Pittsburgh will buck the trend and see if they can win without an enormous investment in the quarterback position. We may have a more valid test in 2023 than this year

Intuitively, it seems that the Steelers would have a death lock on last place. All the clichés say that the NFL is a quarterback’s league, the team with the best quarterback usually wins. However, these things run in cycles.

Right now, the Cardinals (Murray), Browns (Watson), Chiefs (Mahomes), Cowboys (Prescott), Rams (Stafford), Packers (Rodgers), Colts (Ryan), and Baltimore (assuming Jackson signs his deal) are all smiles, expecting to win the Super Bowl with the help of the mega contracts that ties their quarterbacks to their team for an amount that is in excess of 13.1 percent. In other words, higher than any Super Bowl-winning team has ever before spent on a quarterback.

If and when some of these teams that overinvested in quarterbacks start to run aground, there’s going to be a correction. In particular, if the Steelers and Bengals wind up dominating the AFC North without having a highly-paid quarterback, that would lend credence to the salary cap theory.

However, the Steelers deserve to finish last for 2022 since they are spending major dollars on players like Big Ben who are gone from the team. That has to be the ultimate sin in cap mismanagement.

To summarize: Kyler Murray’s new deal legitimizes megabuck salaries for quarterbacks in excess of 20 percent of the team cap allowance. The opinion of this analyst is that this practice is indeed (a) unprecedented and (b) insane and that any team that pays its quarterback this much money will have a very low probability of winning the Super Bowl that year.

The reason is that the rest of the roster will be too depleted of talent. It is predicted that in a few years some of the teams that have signed quarterbacks to overly large contracts will get caught in economic disasters. In the future, say by 2027-2030, teams may start to exercise better judgment and refuse to give out such huge contracts to quarterbacks.

And by the way, almost no one agrees with your humble correspondent on this issue. Let’s be honest. The prevailing opinion is to “spend, spend, spend!”

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