Kyler Murray declared for the NFL draft Monday with an understated Tweet. Yes, the former Oklahoma quarterback is, for now, contractually committed to a baseball career (the Oakland Athletics drafted him ninth overall in 2018 and gave him a $4.6 million signing bonus), but a Heisman-winning campaign and College Football Playoff berth caused him to reconsider the original plan.
Murray’s decision to declare didn’t come as a surprise to the A’s or NFL teams. Back in December, I reported that some NFL scouts who visited Oklahoma came away with the expectation that Murray would declare for the NFL draft, and that Oklahoma had submitted his name to the College Advisory Committee, a panel of evaluators from the 32 NFL teams that give prospective draft grades to underclassmen considering going pro. On Sunday, multiple outlets reported that the A’s sent top executives to Dallas to meet with Murray and his family to try to persuade him to stick with baseball. MLB also sent marketing executives to meet with him to present information about Murray’s off-field earning potential.
At this point, Murray’s decision to declare for the draft is purely procedural. The NFL draft wouldn't have been an option had he not declared by Monday's early-entry deadline—if he chooses baseball, he can simply inform NFL teams that, while they can draft him and hold his rights for a year, he won't be playing football in 2019. Oakland A's position players report to spring training on Feb. 18, so the A’s have until then to try to win over Murray. MLB.com’s Jeff Passan reported that in Sunday's meeting, the two sides discussed Oakland guaranteeing more money in addition to the $4.6 million bonus. To do so, Oakland would need to add Murray to the 40-man roster, but he would still spend time in the minor leagues. If Murray ends up choosing the NFL, he’ll have to pay back his signing bonus to Oakland.
Murray has a unique amount of leverage for a college player, but it isn’t totally unprecedented. In 1983, John Elway didn’t want to play for the cellar-dwelling Baltimore Colts, who had selected him first overall. He leveraged his baseball potential with the Yankees to push Baltimore to trade him to Denver. Eli Manning said publicly that he would not play for the Chargers if they drafted him with the No. 1 pick of the 2004 draft, which forced the Chargers to trade him to the Giants in a swap that netted San Diego Philip Rivers and three draft picks. Murray has never taken an at-bat in the minor leagues, and the idea that he might end up with a major league contract shows just how unique his situation is. It isn’t just the Athletics who want Murray, it’s Major League Baseball as a whole.
The Elway comparison is a natural one because of the baseball option, but Elway was unanimously viewed as the best quarterback of the ‘83 draft class—Murray the NFL prospect is not such a sure thing. He threw for 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season and picked up 1,001 yards and 12 scores on the ground, but Murray is listed at 5' 10", (exactly 5' 9 7/8", according to OU) and there are questions about how the undersized quarterback’s skillset translates to the NFL.
Some scouts have told me he’s definitely a first-round talent, because the league has become increasingly more accepting of smaller quarterbacks and offenses are evolving to highlight Murray’s dynamic playing style, but others have voiced concern over his height and durability. Our Albert Breer reported that he has yet to talk to an evaluator who views Murray as a first-round talent. Because of the premium placed on the position, quarterbacks typically rise in the draft, making it likely Murray will end up being a first-round pick. One CAC evaluator told me that Murray likely received a first- or second-round grade from the panel, but he was not assigned to Murray’s specific evaluation and could not say for certain.
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NOW ON THE MMQB: Jenny Vrentas on new Jets head coach Adam Gase ... 100 Bears fans tried to kick Cody Parkey's blocked 43-yard field goal, and I joined them ... Andy Benoit previews Mahomes vs. Belichick Part II ... and more.
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2. It's pretty clear Parkey could soon be cut.
3. Nagy, who has experience coaching Kareem Hunt, did not rule out the possibility the Bears would sign him.
4. Adam Vinatieri, who will be a free agent in March, will meet with the Colts on Tuesday to discuss his future.
5. John Elway admits to our pal Peter King that he was wrong about hiring Vance Joseph as head coach.
Kicking is hard, but this was a Doink Chicagoans could actually laugh at.
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