Agent's Take: Where Kyler Murray must be drafted to make the economics of his NFL decision a smart move

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray announced Monday he was "fully committing" to playing football professionally. The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner tweeted the following:

Murray's decision seems to end his pursuit of a baseball career after being taken ninth overall by the A's in last June's MLB Draft. Murray had signed a minor league contract with a $4.66 million signing bonus. According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, Murray will return $1.29 million of the $1.5 million in signing bonus he has already received from the A's. He forfeits the remaining $3.16 million due on March 1. The A's will retain Murray's rights by putting him on the restricted list.

A commitment to football was necessary for Murray to maximize his position in the 2019 NFL Draft. It's unlikely that any team would use a high pick on Murray without him choosing football over baseball. A good showing during the predraft process at the NFL combine, which begins at the end of the month, and at Oklahoma's pro day in March would help alleviate concerns about Murray's size and probably ensure that he is a first-round pick.

Murray was listed at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds by Oklahoma. The Seahawks have the only starting quarterback shorter than 6-foot in Russell Wilson, who was measured at 5-foot-10 5/8 when he attended the combine in 2012. Wilson was a third-round pick, and a quarterback as small as Murray going in the first round would be unprecedented.

Murray hired Erik Burkhardt, who is also Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury's agent, to represent him for his football career. The former Texas Tech head coach said of Murray before his team played Oklahoma last year that "Kyler is a freak ... I would take him with the first pick if I could." The comment has prompted speculation the Cardinals will make Murray the first overall pick in April's draft despite trading up to the 10th spot last year to take quarterback Josh Rosen.

The Cardinals attempted to end to the speculation by publicly supporting Rosen yesterday. Kingsbury also characterized his Murray comments as being complimentary before playing an opponent.

Putting Murray's passion for football aside, it makes more sense economically for him to play football, at least in the short term, if he is a first-round pick. This would likely require Murray being one of the first three quarterbacks selected in the 2019 draft.

The chart below illustrates the difference between the projected four-year contracts 2019 first-round picks should sign under the NFL rookie wage scale and Murray's $4.66 million signing bonus from the A's. The draft slots of the teams expected to consider taking a quarterback in the first round were used. The Cardinals were also included because of Kingsbury's affinity for Murray. Signing bonuses were increased 8.5 percent from last year's deals, which is between the increase 2017 and 2018 first-round picks received over the previous year.

PickTeamSigning BonusFour-Year Total
1Cardinals$23.707M$35.319M
6Giants$16.767M$25.768M
7Jaguars$14.63M$22.84M
10Broncos$11.803M$18.95M
11Bengals$10.896M$17.704M
13Dolphins$9.25M$15.502M
15Redskins$8.547M$14.474M
32Patriots$5.391M$10.135M

Note: The entire deals are fully guaranteed except No. 32, which has $8.619 million in fully guaranteed money.

As long as Murray is a first-round pick, he is significantly better off initially from a financial standpoint than playing baseball. The last pick in the first round's entire deal will be more than double Murray's signing bonus from the A's. The guaranteed money as the last first-round pick is expected to be almost 85 percent more than the A's signing bonus. The signing bonus for this pick should be around $725,000 more than with baseball.

Teams have an option for a fifth year with first-round picks that must be exercised prior to May 3 after the third year of the deal. The fifth year is guaranteed for injury when the option is exercised. The option year becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the league year in the fifth contract year (this upcoming March 13 for the 2015 first-round picks).

The fifth-year salary for the top 10 picks is the transition tender, which is average of the ten highest salaries, for a player's position in the fourth year of his contract. For 2016 first overall pick Jared Goff, his option year salary in 2020 with the Rams will be in the neighborhood of $23 million. The fifth-year option for players selected No. 11-32 is the average of the third through 25th highest salaries at a player's position. This quarterback number will be somewhere between $15 million and $15.5 million with first-round picks from 2016. Obviously, the salaries will be much higher for Murray in 2023 if he's taken in the first round as the salary cap continues to increase.

Murray's break-even point with his baseball signing bonus should be the 39th overall pick (seventh pick in the second round). The guaranteed money projected with this pick is right around $4.7 million. The four-year deal for this draft slot should be in the $7.4 million range.

Had Murray chosen baseball, his signing bonus would have likely been his only big payday for at least the next few years. The next 2-3 seasons probably would have been spent in the minors. Once in the major leagues, it would have been another three years before becoming salary arbitration eligible. Up until this point in the majors, Murray probably wouldn't have been making more than league minimum salary. His first shot at free agency likely wouldn't have come until 2026 or 2027 at age 29 or 30. It's worth noting the threat of another sport, football, being a viable option could have accelerated the potential baseball payday time table.

The A's are going to try to convince Murray to change his mind, according to the Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. It was reported that Murray was looking for $15 million to play baseball before he chose football, which was later disputed. $15 million is on par with the guaranteed money of the 13th overall pick.

In a liberal interpretation of the draft pick spending rules, MLB is going to allow the A's to pay Murray more money by signing him a major-league contract. Theoretically, the A's could give Murray more than anything he would receive under the NFL's rookie wage scale.

The baseball option also potentially gives Murray more control over his NFL landing spot than the typical draft prospect. He could discourage teams he considered undesirable from selecting him by threatening to play baseball, much like Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway did when the Colts selected him first overall in the 1983 draft. Elway, who was already in the Yankees' minor league system, forced a post-draft trade to the Broncos, where he won two Super Bowls before making the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

If the same is in the cards for Murray, he'll look back to February 2019 and know he made the right decision to play football.

Former Sports Agent

Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Before his tenure at Premier, Joel worked... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories