INDIANAPOLIS -- The most likely superstar quarterback to change teams this offseason is a player no one saw coming a few months ago.
The ALL CAPS (and poorly edited) missive from Kyler Murray's agent Monday spoke louder than anything said by Cardinals general manager Steve Keim at the podium this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. For those who didn't make it through the entire Murray statement, the only reasonable reading is that he wants a long-term extension this offseason, or he wants out. By Wednesday, longtime Cardinals observer Dan Bickley, as well-connected as anyone in Arizona sports, was writing that Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill was "surely seething" about Murray and suggested a Murray-for-Deshaun Watson trade (a possibility so messy that I could see it happening eventually).
When NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on the Cardinals' disappointment in Murray's leadership style before Super Bowl Sunday, it felt like the first indication of a potential power struggle within the team. If a power struggle were developing, it seems clear where ownership's loyalties would lie. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport was first to report Wednesday on contract extensions for Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury, which will run through 2027. Yup -- the Cardinals skipped right past 2024, 2025 and 2026 to make sure Keim and Kingsbury won't go anywhere for the next six seasons. Weird.
If Keim and Kingsbury wanted some security before possibly making a franchise-altering move with Murray, they got it. While Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson appear more likely than ever to be staying in Green Bay and Seattle, respectively -- and Watson remains in a holding pattern in Houston, with his legal troubles as uncertain as ever -- Murray is shaping up to be the main character of this NFL offseason. On Twitter, you never want to be the main character. But I suspect this is exactly what Murray was looking for.
With the majority of NFL coaches and general managers speaking publicly here at the NFL Scouting Combine, there were a lot of other takeaways beyond Murray's future. Here's a look at the winners and losers from a busy few days:
Receiver Amari Cooper: Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones made it clear Monday that Cooper's future in Dallas is up for grabs. Cooper is due $20 million in fully guaranteed money on the fifth day of the new league year. Rapoport suggested on NFL Now that Cooper is likely to be asked to take a pay cut or be released outright. Rapoport believed that bringing Cooper back at his current salary is not something the Cowboys are considering, which makes it sound like a divorce is imminent.
Cooper's production didn't match his salary in 2021, but he should still call the Cowboys' bluff and not accept any pay cut. The NFL is a strange place, because cutting Cooper would be doing him a favor. He'd be a top-15 free agent if available and would get more guaranteed money if released, which makes me wonder if he will wind up having a trade market in the coming weeks. It's happened before!
(UPDATE: Rapoport reported Friday that Dallas will try to trade Cooper, and that he's expected to be released if no takers can be found.)
The Jets' chances of making a big splash: Joe Douglas has been the Jets' GM since June of 2019, and the team is 13-36 since then, with seven of those wins happening in the 2019 season, before Douglas ran the team's draft and free agency. He knows it's go time.
"If the right opportunity presents itself in the trade market, we're ready to strike," Douglas said Wednesday.
Translation: We are going to spend, trade and make news, or else I won't be doing this interview a year from now.
Tua Tagovailoa's chances for success: Dolphins GM Chris Grier said Wednesday the "door is shut" on pursuing Deshaun Watson, which should be a relief to Tua. More importantly, the Dolphins have an offensive coaching staff led by new hire Mike McDaniel that appears perfectly suited to highlight Tua's short-passing strengths and support him with a strong running game.
Nathaniel Hackett's popularity: The guy gives good press conference. I'm not sure whether that means anything, but if the Broncos players are as smitten with Hackett as my Around the NFL podcast co-hosts Marc Sessler and Dan Hanzus were after listening to Hackett for 15 minutes, then the team will follow him anywhere.
Jessie Bates and Orlando Brown's chances of getting the franchise tag: Bengals personnel chief Duke Tobin all but said Bates will be tagged in the coming days. Chiefs GM Brett Veach said it was “likely” for Brown unless they can get a long-term deal finalized.
Weird Mitch Trubisky love: Between Bills general manager Brandon Beane saying that Trubisky is someone you'd want your daughter to marry to various media speculation about Mitch getting a starter job, the whole Trubisky Hive reawakened this week after lying low in shame for a year after his NVP performance.
Gronk's chances of playing in 2022: Bruce Arians said Rob Gronkowski is working out twice a week at the Bucs facility, which is all I really needed to know. The Bills' interest in bringing the Buffalo native back home, according to Tim Graham of The Athletic, was the icing on the cake.
The Giants' roster stability: Kyle Rudolph was cut on Wednesday, which was probably an easy choice for new GM Joe Schoen, considering Rudolph's salary. Backup running back Devontae Booker was also cut, which is mostly notable in terms of what it says about Saquon Barkley.
Booker had the exact same rushing yardage as Barkley in 17 fewer carries last season. Booker had 5 more receiving yards on one fewer catch. So when you hear that nearly any Giants player could be available, including Barkley, believe it. This roster is about to be turned over.
Jimmy G's trade value: 49ers GM John Lynch told anyone who would listen that Jimmy Garoppolo is available and desired, and that the shoulder surgery that will have him rehabbing most of the offseason is no big deal. Methinks Lynch doth protest too much, like when he also said that Garoppolo's presumed successor at quarterback, Trey Lance, has exceeded expectations. They are selling a bit too hard, and I can't imagine a scenario where a team would give up more than a third-round pick for Jimmy G coming off a shoulder injury.
Jarvis Landry's chances of remaining a Brown: Browns GM Andrew Berry was pointedly vague about the receiver's status on Tuesday, nearly reading a eulogy for Landry's time and influence on the team. I can't imagine Landry taking a pay cut to stay, so I can't imagine Landry staying on the Browns.
Optimism about big QB trades: Arians said it was unlikely that franchise quarterbacks would get traded, sounding very much like a man who had already struck out. (He even said he had eight guys on his "board.") Washington coach Ron Rivera was asked about possible trades, saying, “that’s what we’re trying to find out.” Browns GM Andrew Berry noted that QBs rarely move despite speculation, a subtle setting of low expectations on being able to upgrade from Baker Mayfield. Kirk Cousins is a wild card here, but it doesn't sound like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson are going anywhere.