If the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner decides to pick football over baseball, expect NFL teams to want an answer before the April draft.
Kyler Murray is likely to know well before the NFL Draft if he’ll be a first- or second-round pick.
Six NFL executives told FanSided they expect Murray — the Oklahoma quarterback, Oakland A’s outfielder and Heisman Trophy winner — to have an agreement in place with any NFL team that might draft him before the actual draft begins on April 25.
“If you’re talking about using a first- or a second-round pick on him, you have to know that he’s committed to play (football),” one high-ranking NFC team executive said.
“It’s going to have to be arranged in advance,” another NFC exec said. “You’re going to know when he goes through the interview process, is he really committed to this or not? Otherwise, you’re maybe using a fifth or sixth rounder on him and then it’s not worth it to him to play.”
In December, at least five NFL personnel executives — all of them general managers or scouting directors — told FanSided they believe that Murray could be drafted somewhere in the first or second round. The substantive issue related to Murray is his size. Although listed by many publications as being 5-foot-10 or even 5-11, most people think he’ll measure at 5-9 if he attends the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
While the NFL has become less concerned with the height of quarterbacks as Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have had success, there is still concern about how to structure a team with a short quarterback. Generally, those teams generally require extraordinarily good guards and a great center to keep pressure out of smaller quarterback’s face.
And while not everyone sees Murray as a first-round pick, enough teams do that that he could be a high enough pick to make it financially worth it for him to pursue a football career over a baseball career.
Murray signed with the A’s after the Major League Baseball draft in June 2018. He received $4.9 million guaranteed, but was allowed to play football this season under the contract. In December, Murray’s baseball agent, Scott Boras, insisted to the media that Murray would play baseball. Boras has since backed off that claim as Murray has stated his interest in the NFL.
From a financial basis, Murray’s first NFL contract could be worth more money than his baseball deal. Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson was the last pick of the first round (No. 32 overall) in 2018. As the final pick of the round, Jackson received a slotted deal that included a signing bonus of $4.97 million, $7.5 million guaranteed and a four-year value of $9.5 million.
An important question for Murray is what happens to him after the first contract. While baseball contracts are generally larger and feature more guarantees than football, the chances of not succeeding in baseball are relatively high. In his one full season of college baseball at Oklahoma, Murray posted an impressive .954 onbase-plus-slugging percentage. However, he also struck out 30 percent of the time.
The NFL has the similar risk, but quarterbacks are the highest paid position and even backup quarterbacks can have long and successful careers. For instance, 16-year veteran Josh McCown has made $49 million over the course of his career after being a third-round pick in 2002. Mike Glennon has made $30 million in six years after being a third-round pick in 2013.
While NFL teams are technically not supposed to negotiate contracts with players before draft, getting assurances from Murray about whether he will sign will be a must.
Or as one executive said, simply: “Absolutely.”