By tonight at midnight, Oklahoma’s multi-sport star and 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray must make a decision on his future. In case you are unaware of the unique situation that Murray is gifted enough to be in, here’s a rundown.
Last year, the Oakland Athletics took Murray with the ninth overall pick in the MLB Draft while allowing him to continue playing football for the Oklahoma Sooners in the fall. The expectation was that Murray would play one year of football because he loves the sport and wanted to start at quarterback for one college season, but that he would then report to 2019 Spring Training.
However, Murray played better than anyone imagined, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Sooners to a Big 12 title and the College Football Playoff. He also played pretty well in the Orange Bowl against a tough Alabama team. Murray’s success on the gridiron complicated things, as he’s now projected as a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft (if he declares).
Now, Murray has a huge decision to make, and it would be big for Major League Baseball if he chooses their sport.
The A’s already guaranteed Murray a $4.7 million signing bonus (which he would have to give back if he opts for football), but he’d immediately make more as a first-round pick in the NFL. As a reference, the 32nd overall pick in last year’s NFL draft (Lamar Jackson, who happens to be a quarterback) was guaranteed $7.5 million at signing, including a signing bonus of nearly $5 million. If Murray is drafted in the first round, he’d make more than with his MLB signing bonus.
Then there’s the future earnings to consider. It’s going to come down to Murray’s success in whichever sport he chooses, but if he’s an MVP-level stud in baseball, he has more monetary upside. With 25-man major league rosters and 162 games per season in the MLB as opposed to 53-man rosters in the NFL and 16 games per season in the NFL, contracts can get substantially higher in baseball. However, because Murray is a quarterback, it’s different.
Franchise quarterbacks now make around the same amount as the top players in the MLB. For reference, here are the top ten salaries for MLB players and NFL quarterbacks (by average salary per year, via Spotrac):
SP Zack Greinke: $34.4 M
SP Clayton Kershaw: $31 M
SP David Price: $31 M
1B Miguel Cabrera: $31 M
2B Jose Altuve: $30.2 M
SP Max Scherzer: $30 M
OF Yeonis Cespedes: $27.5 M
SP Justin Verlander: $27 M
SP Jon Lester: $25.8 M
Four tied with $25 M
Aaron Rodgers: $33.5 M
Matt Ryan: $30 M
Kirk Cousins: $28 M
Jimmy Garoppolo: $27.5 M
Matthew Stafford: $27 M
Derek Carr: $25 M
Drew Brees: $25 M
Alex Smith: $23.5 M
Joe Flacco: $22.1 M
Russell Wilson: $21.9 M
Keep in mind, of those top-ten MLB players over half are starting pitchers. The potential contracts of free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado could be upwards of $30 million, but the fact of the matter is top NFL quarterbacks are on about an even playing field with top MLB players—it’s a different scale than the straight-up MLB-to-NFL comparison some people use when discussing the benefits of choosing baseball over football.
Future earnings shouldn’t be the sticking point for Murray’s decision, and the signing bonus isn’t a huge deal either—though it’d be in favor of football if Murray is selected in the first round. However, the A’s have (according to multiple reports) come on strong over the weekend ahead of the Monday-at-midnight deadline, sending a contingent that included Major League Baseball officials to attempt to talk Murray into playing baseball while offering him a major-league contract and a 40-man roster spot. This major-league contract could be more in-line with what Murray would make as a top-ten selection in the NFL draft—a guaranteed $10-$20+ million would give Murray something more to think about.
There are also the injury concerns for Murray in football, as he’d be the smallest quarterback in the league at about five-foot-nine and 180 pounds. However, Murray clearly has a ton of confidence about his ability and believes he can play football at the next level.
Basically, Murray’s decision will likely come down to which sport he loves more. Murray is great at both, but most accounts suggest he likes football better, and his hesitancy during this process indicates as much. And the grind of minor-league baseball probably isn’t as appealing as professionally playing a sport in which he was just the best college player in the nation and would likely be competing for a Day 1 starting job for an NFL franchise.
For Major League Baseball, it’d be a coup to take the Heisman Trophy winner from the titanic National Football League. The NFL would get over it quickly, and it’s undoubtedly more important for the MLB. One of the world’s most explosive and promising young athletes choosing baseball would help inject some energy into a game that some of the millennial-mindset people have shied away from because of the perception that it’s too slow or boring.
Perhaps the most talked-about story of the MLB offseason ending with the league getting shunned for football would be unfortunate. This story could also drag out, as Murray could declare for the NFL draft, report for Spring Training, and make his decision in the coming weeks. But for now, everyone awaits to see if Murray ends it today by choosing baseball.