Byron Murphy’s 2-Year Contract Is a Steal of a Deal
In one of the best moves of the Vikings’ 2023 free agency, the team signed cornerback Byron Murphy from the Cardinals. His contract for a starting-caliber outside cornerback is a steal of a deal. Honestly, it is almost highway robbery.
The first report of the contract was that it was a 2-year deal worth $22 million. However, recently that figure was downgraded to $17.5 million over two years. This contract price is so low that Cardinals fans are losing their minds.
To be honest, they really should be puzzled. Byron Murphy signing a contract like this tells us a couple of things. First off, the state of the Arizona Cardinals is in disaster mode. Second, there are some concerns among NFL teams about his health.
Byron Murphy, unfortunately, suffered a back injury that sidelined him in the second half of the season in 2022. It was not known at the time how serious that injury was, nor is it still certain today. However, that back problem didn’t seem to faze Kwesi Adofo-Mensah one bit.
Unsurprisingly, Kwesi is taking a swing on a guy like Murphy, who has such a high ceiling even with the back injury. He took a similar swing on Za’Darius Smith, who missed the entire 2021 season, and that turned out pretty well. Essentially, Kwesi seems to have unending faith in the Vikings’ training and medical staff to take care of the players.
That said, Kwesi, in a stroke of genius, structured Byron Murphy’s contract in such a way that it protects the Vikings if this calculated swing is a whiff. Here are the cap charges for his contract:
- 2023 – $4.9 million cap hit
- 2024 – $12.35 million cap hit with only a $3.5 million dead cap hit if he is released
In other words, Kwesi is paying peanuts for a starting-caliber cornerback, especially considering the top-10 highest-paid cornerbacks in the league have an average cap hit of $16.6 million. Additionally, the 2024 portion of the contract allows the Vikings to get out of the deal if the back injury flares up. AKA – a very team-friendly contract.
The best part of the contract is that Murphy is actually a good cornerback who played really well against some of the best wide receivers in the league, including Justin Jefferson and Davante Adams.
Byron Murphy Has the Potential to Be Great
The thing about Byron Murphy is that when he is locked in a playing good, he is a man on fire. On the other hand, when he is not playing well, it is not a complete catastrophe which is more than what can be said about some cornerbacks in recent Vikings history.
Looking at PFF Grades in 2022, you can see these ups and downs. Of course, there is always more to the story than PFF grades can tell, but they are a good snapshot.
- Week 2 against the Raiders – 73.0 coverage grade
- Week 5 against the Eagles – 70.3 coverage grade
- Week 8 against the Vikings – 75.5 coverage grade
Many of the snaps during these games were against Justin Jefferson, Davante Adams, and AJ Brown. We can all agree that these wide receivers are pretty darn good at football. However, the best part always comes from the tape. Take a look at a couple of these clips:
In each of these clips, watch his feet. There is very little wasted movement as each step has a purpose. He doesn’t overreact to any of the flare Davante or Jefferson put on these routes, which is ideal for your starting cornerback.
Obviously, there are some bad reps, as every cornerback has been burned from time or time. But the purpose here is to show the ceiling of Murphy. If Brian Flores can get him zoned in more often than not, the Vikings might have the best cornerback since 2017 Xavier Rhodes. At the bare minimum, there is a guy in the room that can be trusted one on one against the elite wide receivers.
Mitch Massman is a lifelong Vikings fan. His first heartbreak was the 1998 NFC championship game. His full-time job is as an economic development professional in rural Minnesota. He fantasizes about the Vikings winning a Super Bowl one day, but until then he will write about the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter @skol_vikings3