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Kyler Murray declares for NFL Draft

Murray keeps his options open, but still far from a final decision on which sport to play.

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Kyler Murray has officially declared for the 2019 NFL Draft, according to a tweet from his personal Twitter account on Monday.

Murray was selected by the Oakland A’s in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft and is under contract with the team to play baseball this year. However, his football stock has since increased after a record-setting campaign that culminated in a Heisman Trophy. Now the quarterback, once considered too small to be a viable pro prospect, is rumored to have a chance at being a first-round pick on the gridiron.

As far as the A’s are concerned, Murray’s draft declaration was fully expected over the last several days and the team has “no issue with him doing so,” reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. It also doesn’t represent anything close to a final decision on his future nor does it affect his current baseball contract, notes Slusser. The move is “largely procedural, and is not binding,” confirms Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who refers to it as a deadline for Murray but not for Oakland. That said, Murray “has informed the Oakland A’s of his intention to follow his heart to the NFL,” reports Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Murray is invited to the A’s big league camp at spring training on Feb. 15 as a non-roster invitee (Slusser). The first real conflict between the two sports would come with the NFL Scouting Combine beginning in the middle of baseball camp on Feb. 26, as he can only be physically present at one of those places. Even then, though, the A’s are “considering allowing Murray to attend” the Combine (Slusser).

At some point, though, Murray is going to have to make a final decision. History has examples of athletes playing both sports simultaneously, but Murray’s status as a quarterback eliminates that as an option for him. Unlike a running back (Bo Jackson) or a cornerback (Deion Sanders), the job of QB is too demanding to split attention with a whole other sport.

Still, even if Murray does choose football and forfeits his baseball signing bonus, that doesn’t necessarily end his relationship with the A’s. Slusser notes that Oakland will “retain Murray’s baseball rights whatever he decides [on Monday],” leaving open the possibility of returning to the diamond if his NFL career doesn’t work out for any reason. At this point, if you haven’t already clicked on Slusser’s full writeup from last week, please do so now because she is currently the national industry leader in investigating and accurately reporting this story and she needs your support to continue doing so.

To their credit, the A’s have been nothing but supportive of Murray throughout this entire process. After taking a big gamble on him by drafting him in the first place, they have been gracious about every twist and turn the roller coaster has taken, even when the possession arrow points toward them drawing the short stick in the end. Everything they’ve said and done publicly has been 100% in favor of Kyler doing whatever he wants, even though it would be easy to imagine a scenario in which a team was not so accommodating in the face of this kind of potential loss and embarrassment. Granted, there are self-serving reasons for the A’s to maintain this positive relationship, as mentioned above by Slusser. But at some point in this world the bottom line comes down to your actual actions, and the ones the A’s have chosen have been unambiguously amicable.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to try everything they can to convince Murray to play baseball. Indeed, those efforts have already begun, and they’re quickly getting creative given Murray’s relatively unprecedented situation. Sunday brought a storm of tweets from the national media, and you should read Slusser’s full writeup of the whole thing (that’s a different link from the one above, so click again please). But it pretty much boiled down to the following:

Summary: There’s talk of offering more money to entice him, but not in the form of a demand from Murray.

Summary: One avenue for extra money would be prematurely placing Murray on the MLB 40-man roster, which would allow him to make more than his original $4.66 million draft bonus.

Summary: Although there are rules about making this kind of move, this is pretty clearly “an extraordinary case” (Rosenthal) and not the result of some shady backroom deal by the two sides last summer. The A’s clearly didn’t promise Murray future benefits last June to skirt around the draft bonus pool system, but rather are responding now to a new and mostly unforeseen development on the matter. It appears that MLB would not get in the way of such a strategy (Rosenthal), and in fact the league has shown active interest in helping facilitate a solution (Slusser).

And that brings us up to the present day. We are still far from a concrete conclusion on this enormous, complicated story, and the next shred of actual, tangible news might not come for another month when Murray either shows up for A’s spring camp or doesn’t. After that it’s two more weeks until the Combine, and then the NFL Draft isn’t until late April. As things stand, it’s possible the 2019 A’s might play dozens of regular season games before we get any truly final answers.

In the meantime, here are some wise words from Melissa Lockard of The Athletic:

Finally, here are my quick personal thoughts. I don’t have anything of value to add to the conversation, and I have no interest in playing the will-he-won’t-he guessing game nor in any way telling Murray what I think he should do. It’s not my life or my decision so my opinion is irrelevant unless requested by Kyler himself (which it won’t be). All I can do is offer my general support to another human being during an inconceivably stressful moment, and try to set an example for how I hope my fellow A’s fans will respond if the news ultimately doesn’t go our way.