The Chargers are set to pick up Justin Herbert‘s fifth-year option, but another one of their 2020 first-round picks will now be entering a contract year. Chargers general manager Tom Telesco told reporters that the organization won’t be picking up linebacker Kenneth Murray‘s fifth-year option.
The announcement came on the heels of the team’s selection of Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley in the third round of last night’s draft. However, Telesco made it clear that the draft pick and Murray’s fifth-year option were unrelated, and he indicated that the front office could explore a new deal with Murray after the 2023 season.
“No, those are kind of two completely separate things,” the GM said (video via the team’s website). “Kenny is doing a great job for us … [The decision was] more salary-cap related, down the road. But we’ll talk when the season’s over.”
Telesco could be sincere when it comes to the financial restrictions of Murray’s fifth-year option. The cash-strapped Chargers would have had to commit $12.7MM to the linebacker, a move that would have made Murray the eighth highest-paid player at his position. Still, the decision has to come as a disappointment to the 24-year-old. Before Murray, Telesco has picked up seven of the last eight Chargers’ fifth-year options, but following a rebound 2022 campaign, the linebacker will now be playing for his next contract in 2023.
Murray had a strong rookie campaign, earning PFWA All-Rookie Team honors after compiling 107 tackles in 16 starts. He started the first three games of the 2021 season before suffering an ankle injury during practice, landing him on injured reserve. After sitting out five games, Murray returned and saw a reduced role on defense, starting only three of his team’s final nine games. The linebacker finished his sophomore season with only 31 tackles, with Pro Football Focus ranking him 83rd among 87 qualifying linebackers.
He managed to rebound a bit this past year, finishing with 76 tackles and a career-high seven tackles for loss in 17 games (16 starts). Murray only graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 73rd-ranked linebacker among 81 qualifiers, but the site did give him solid marks for his pass-rush ability and coverage.
With Kyzir White and Drue Tranquill out the door, the Chargers will continue to rely on Murray. The team added inside linebacker Eric Kendricks this offseason, and the veteran should start alongside Murray, with Henley likely having the edge as the top backup in that grouping. Telesco said the team’s second-round pick Tuli Tuipulotu profiles as more of an edge defender.