Last month, the case was made for Kyler Murray becoming the next name in a short line of quarterbacks who have turned the tables on the NFL by exercising control over his draft status — a line that currently consists of John Elway and Eli Manning.
“Murray can become one of the few to tell the NFL the circumstances under which he’ll willingly become an employee of a professional football team,” it was written. “He can say, plainly and clearly, that if he’s not drafted by a certain team (or teams) and/or if he’s not selected at a certain level, he’s not signing a football contract and playing baseball instead.”
Then came Super Bowl week, and Murray was asked point blank on the set of PFT Live whether he’d be willing to make it clear that he’ll choose baseball unless he’s picked by one of a list of specific teams. Murray began the answer by praising the A’s for how they’ve handled the situation, apparently to indicate that he wouldn’t keep the door open to baseball on an equivocal basis out of respect to the MLB team that had drafted him. Murray then said he also wouldn’t place such restrictions on his NFL draft status.
But here’s the thing. With teams trying to avoid a Bo Jackson outcome, with a first-round pick squandered on someone who never signs a football contract, Murray necessarily will have the power to determine where he plays. With the A’s reportedly still at the ready to try to outbid whoever drafts Murray and with a very real difference between Murray’s recently-unveiled commitment to football and the ultimate commitment that would come from signing a contract containing the Jameis Winston no-baseball clause, any team considering writing K-Y-L-E-R-M-U-R-R-A-Y on a draft card needs to be sure that he’ll sign those same letters, in that same order, at the bottom of a formal four-year NFL agreement.
That’s where the power come from, whether Murray chooses to use it or not. The sword that Murray will be swinging comes from the shield the teams of Big Shield will be using to ensure that Murray will turn his commitment into a contract. Would any G.M. in his right mind draft Murray without first contacting agent Erik Burkhardt and saying, “Will your guy agree to terms, or will we be wasting a draft pick?”
Thus, look for Murray and Burkhardt to be subtle and passive, not active and aggressive, when it comes to the very rare position Murray occupies. He’s an NFL draft prospect with an opportunity to make as much or more money playing a sport other than football. And that will surely make every team considering Murray very, very nervous.