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College Sports: Breaking down Kyler Murray’s uncertain future ahead of the Orange Bowl: ‘It’s never bad to have options’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray plays with an unpredictable flair. He can beat you with a heave down field or a scramble to the sideline. He’s hard to catch.

But soon Murray will face a decision that he can’t throw over or sprint past: baseball or football?

The 5-10 Murray has committed to playing baseball with the Oakland A’s, and his agent Scott Boras confirmed he will be in major league camp with the team starting Feb. 10, according to Yahoo! Sports.

But his Heisman Trophy season has given NFL scouts something to look at it. Murray’s comments on the matter have been consistently vague since the A’s drafted him, and he stuck to that line in Miami this week as he prepared to lead his No. 4 Sooners against No. 1 Alabama in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night.

“Right now, obviously, I’m going to play baseball, but I’m not focused on any of that right now,” Murray said. “My main focus is Saturday, getting ready to play this game.

“It’s never bad to have options.”

With other undersized quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson (5-11, 215) and Baker Mayfield (6-1, 215) excelling in the NFL, Murray has a blueprint for success.

“He’s in a great situation,” coach Lincoln Riley said this week. “I mean, the guy is already the ninth overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, and I think he’ll probably be somewhere around the same spot if he chooses to go football-wise.”

If he moves away from the diamond, Murray would have to give back a “very large portion” of his $4.6 million signing bonus, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.

But if Murray gets selected in the first round, he would make up that money quickly. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was the final pick of the first round of the 2018 NFL draft, and he signed a four-year deal worth about $9 million. Josh Rosen, who went 10th overall, signed a contract worth more than $17 million.

Those figures would be prorated over the length of the contract, so Murray would have less cash in the short term if he picks football. But if he stays the course and chooses baseball, it could be another half decade before he makes more than a million dollars in a season.

Murray would make a relatively modest salary as a minor leaguer. After earning promotion to the major leagues, likely to take multiple years, he would make just over $500,000 for his first three seasons in the big leagues.

So by 2023, Murray would be making less than $1 million annually. But if he opts for football and becomes an established NFL quarterback, he’d be in position to negotiate a nine-figure contract, like Dak Prescott could do this offseason.

There is an option behind door No. 3: Play both sports.

From a financial standpoint, this would be the most lucrative option. He would immediately become one of the most interesting athletes in sports. Fans would be able to watch him year round.

If Murray could pull off being the first two-sport athlete of the social media era, he would be in position to make as much money off the field as he would on it.

“The dream is obviously the late ’80s, early ’90s with Bo [Jackson] and Deion [Sanders],” sports business reporter Darren Rovell told SportsDay earlier this month. “Bo was making about $5 or $6 million [in endorsements], which is equivalent to $8 or $9 million today.”

Rovell also said Murray would be in position to sign a multi-million dollar shoe contract.

There’s no hard deadline for Murray to make a decision, though whether he participates in the NFL scouting combine could shed some light on his thought process.

He could sprint toward the sure thing in baseball, or stay with the sport that made him a Texas high school legend.

Until he makes a final decision, his future will remain as uncertain as his style on the field.

“He’s either going to be a Major League Baseball All-Star or he’s going to be a Pro Bowler,” Riley said. “He just needs to decide which one.

“Maybe both.”

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