Funding rule likely kept Cardinals from fully guaranteeing Kyler Murray’s deal


After the Browns gave quarterback Deshaun Watson a five-year, fully-guaranteed $230 million contract, NFL Players Association president JC Tretter challenged agents to push for more fully-guaranteed contracts. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, while getting $100,00 more year in average salary than Watson, got only $160 million guaranteed.

The amount that’s fully guaranteed isn’t mentioned in the initial reporting on the terms, because it never is. Because, except in very rare cases, the amount of the full guarantee is always less than the overall amount of the guarantee. Even if it’s $160 million (and it isn’t), that’s more than $70 million less than the full value of the deal.

Some will blame agent Erik Burkhardt for not insisting on a five-year, fully guaranteed deal. But here’s the problem. Some teams simply won’t be able to put massive amounts of cash in escrow, as required by the league’s ridiculously outdated funding rule.

A vestige of an era in which some franchise possibly would have run out of money to pay future guarantees, the funding rule requires certain amounts to be placed into escrow. For Watson, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam must deposit $169 million into an escrow account by March 31, 2023. As one source recently explained it to PFT, that’s quite possibly a check that Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill can’t afford to write.

And that’s another reason for the funding rule to go away. Owners who may not have a mountain of cash now necessarily will have sufficient dollars later (thanks to the TV money) to honor full guarantees.

But the funding rule isn’t going away. So the problem isn’t going away. And it will be an issue for other teams that want to sign quarterback to massive deals. Starting next year, when the Bengals try to get quarterback Joe Burrow to accept something less than Watson’s $230 million full guarantee. Because owner Mike Brown most likely can’t or won’t drop $169 million into an escrow account by March 31, 2024.