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Russell’s Options

June 9, 2010

It’s been a crazy 24 hours.

The MLB draft was expected to come and go with more impact on State’s incoming class than its existing roster, but the Colorado Rockies stunned everyone by drafting Russell Wilson in the 4th round.  It kick-started a whirlwind of speculation on Wilson’s future plans.

Should he stay for another year of football? Should he take the money and run?

As we in the speculation business were making our guesses and predictions, we got word from Russell himself later that afternoon that he plans to play football next year, and that the Rockies are aware of his dual sport status. He assured reporters, and by proxy State fans, that he would be starting under center at quarterback next year for the Pack.

So Russell’s staying, right?

Well…I’m still not sure.

Here are Russell’s two viable options, in my opinion.

One, he can sign with the Rockies to secure his services for a determined period of time, and so long as he doesn’t accept money or hire an agent, he can continue to play football–provided he pays his own way. At the conclusion of football season, he’ll leave State (having already graduated) and begin his career in the Rockies organization.

Two, he can simply forego football altogether and start his professional baseball career the day he signs his contract.

We know what Russell has said he plans to do. But I think what the Rockies offer Wilson in the way of a signing bonus will make his ultimate decision for him.

If it’s a traditional bonus in line with what typical 4th-round picks enjoy, I think Russell will certainly play football. That amount is usually in the $100K-$150K range, and not enough to really set Russell up for an extended period of time, especially if he has a semester of out-of-state tuition to repay.

However, if the Rockies are determined to get him in the organization as soon as possible AND want to prevent him from getting injured during football season, they’ll make an offer closer to $400K-$500K. A half-million stashed away in an interest-bearing account isn’t enough to live off, but it certainly would augment a minor-leaguer’s salary quite nicely.

From the Rockies’ perspective, I think you have to be concerned about Russell’s chances of getting injured in his final season of football. He was banged up pretty good his freshman year–a concussion, an arm injury and a knee injury–that forced him to miss playing time. He managed to stay healthier last season, but there’s no doubt that Russell’s size and track record of injury is cause for concern if you’re a MLB team that just used their 4th-round pick on him.

So if you’re the Rockies, do you up the offer, reasoning a larger signing bonus that secures his services now is wiser than patiently waiting out the college football season, praying he avoids injury? I think the Rockies will be willing to wait on Russell if they aren’t willing to pay what it takes to get Russell out of football, but I certainly think they will explore that option and hope that whatever his magic number is, it falls within their acceptable range.

I have no idea what Russell’s magic number is. He may not have one at all. He may insist on playing football no matter what the offer is.

But given Wilson’s injury track record, I think he needs to consider the possibility that one vicious hit on the football field to his surgically repaired knee could end BOTH of his sports dreams and he could ultimately wind up with nothing.

Wilson doesn’t have to make a decision until August 15th, if I understand things correctly, so we may not know Russell’s final answer for some time. Until then, there will be a lot of folks paying close attention to this decision, especially those whose lockers and offices reside in the Murphy Center.

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