Last fall, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Kyler Murray would end up playing professional baseball.
A stipulation of the contract allowed him to play one more year of football for the Sooners, something Murray made clear was a priority to him.
"We were totally on board with his desire to play quarterback at Oklahoma,” A’s scouting director Eric Kubota told reporters last June. “Frankly, we're kind of excited to be an Oklahoma fan for 12 games."
A’s gamble on Murray didn’t pay off
Fast-forward to January, and Murray had won the Heisman Trophy, and Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield had helped continue to break down the stigma against undersized quarterbacks in the NFL.
Standing at 5-foot-10 and around 200 pounds, Murray possess the body type that would have left him largely overlooked by NFL scouts years ago. Now he’s surefire first-round pick who may go first off the board in next week’s NFL draft.
It all added up to too strong a draw for Murray, who famously opted out of the guaranteed millions the A’s had committed to him for the chance to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
According to a Sports Illustrated report, Murray left a lot more money on the table than was originally thought.
A’s reportedly upped offer to Murray by $14M
SI’s Robert Klemko reports that the A’s stepped up their commitment to Murray in January with an offer of $14 million in guaranteed money in addition to his original signing bonus.
From the SI report:
“According to a source close to the family, the A’s contingent that visited Kyler in January offered him a contract worth $14 million in guaranteed cash, in addition to his signing bonus. (The deal would have required that Oakland take the extreme step of adding Murray to its 40-man roster and would have paid out a figure similar to that of a top 10 NFL draft pick. For context, Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, who went eighth in 2018, signed a four-year deal worth $18.5 million.) But Kyler turned down that offer, and his family has kept those financials out of the media.”
Reported offer added up to first-round NFL money
So basically, the A’s offered Murray first-round NFL money to stick with baseball. It was a signifiant commitment to a baseball prospect who — like most young prospects — was far from guaranteed to develop into a contributing MLB player.
But with Murray shooting up NFL draft boards, he held significant leverage over the A’s, who were reportedly happy to dole out first-round NFL money to an unproven prospect.
Still not enough
Of course Murray turned them down and will enter next week as the biggest story of the NFL draft. Murray reportedly shunning the offer from the A’s reinforces the idea that football is his first love, something that should have been clear when he decided last fall to play the game for free rather that start his professional baseball career.
The A’s clearly coveted Murray and took a big gamble and lost when their decision to draft him and allow him to play football backfired. They apparently valued him so much, that they bucked the norms of baseball deals with the massive offer to try to keep him on board.
Ultimately the NFL lure was too strong for Murray. He’ll realize those dreams next Thursday when his name is called in the first round of the draft.
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