Less than two months before what is supposed to be his first Major League Baseball spring training, Kyler Murray is reportedly planning to test the waters of the National Football League.
The Oakland Athletics expect Murray, who they picked ninth overall in the 2018 MLB draft, to declare for the NFL draft on Sunday after a massively successful season with Oklahoma that saw the 21-year-old quarterback win the Heisman Trophy, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
This decision is just the latest wrinkle in the saga of Murray’s multi-million dollar decision between staying with the A’s or attempting to pursue a career in the NFL, a choice in which Murray is leaning football per a source of the Chronicle.
What does Kyler Murray entering the NFL draft mean?
Right now, it doesn’t mean much. The A’s would certainly have been happy if he didn’t declare, as that would mean firmly picking baseball over football, but doing so simply keeps Murray’s options open for now.
However, the move does represent another step toward the Athletics’ nightmare scenario: Murray walking away from the $4.66 million contract they signed him to as a first-round pick.
Decision time might come earlier than expected for Murray. The A’s are scheduled to have position players report to big league spring training in Arizona on Feb. 15, something Murray might want to participate in if he’s interested in a professional baseball career. Less than two weeks later, the NFL scouting combine will begin on Feb. 26 in Indianapolis.
According to the Chronicle, the Athletics might consider allowing Murray to attend the combine, which would reportedly require the permission of MLB and directly interfere with Murray’s prep for the 2019 baseball season.
If Murray really wants to pursue an NFL career and be drafted high enough that it makes financial sense to walk away from the millions of dollars he received from the A’s, he will likely need to attend the combine to show NFL teams he’s serious about committing to football. Otherwise, teams likely aren’t going to spend a first or second-round draft pick on a player that could bolt for MLB if his football career doesn’t go as planned.
The NFL draft is scheduled to begin on April 25, well after the beginning of the minor-league season. There is little chance that Murray will know his NFL team by the time he has to make a final decision, and there is absolutely no chance of him playing both sports professionally at the same time.
What happens if Kyler Murray sticks with football?
If Murray does decide to skip A’s spring training, commit to NFL draft prep and sign with an NFL team, that would likely mean the end of Murray’s MLB career for now.
As far as the A’s are concerned, they would still hold Murray’s rights if he decided to return to baseball. They would also likely be able to recoup the $4.66 million signing bonus they gave to Murray. The larger cost would be the team completely whiffing on a top-10 draft pick.
When MLB teams fail to sign a draft pick, they typically receive a compensatory draft pick at the same position in the following draft. But Murray did sign, so the A’s wouldn’t receive that compensation while being stuck with a prospect that no longer plays baseball.
Kyler Murray’s decision: baseball or football?
It was well-known that Murray would play football at Oklahoma while the A’s awaited the end of his football career, but no one really thought Murray would play as well as he did this season.
Playing as the clear No. 1 quarterback for the first time in his college football career, Murray exploded for 4,361 passing yards and 42 passing touchdowns as well as 1,001 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. That performance earned him the hallowed Heisman Trophy and powered Oklahoma to a Big 12 championship and a College Football Playoff berth.
Despite all that success, Murray’s football future is still questionable. He’s undersized as far as the NFL goes, generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, and not widely expected to be a first-round pick this year. On the other hand, he’d be among the most athletic players in baseball and in line for MLB’s famously juicy contracts if his career panned out, but that is by no means a guarantee.
Both Murray and his baseball agent, Scott Boras, have been mostly firm in his commitment to the Athletics, at least publicly, but Murray has dropped plenty of hints recently that it would be hard for him to close the door on football. He has suggested he wants to play both, but that is basically impossible between the grind of ascending through the minor leagues and the demands of learning how to be an NFL quarterback.
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