Anthony Richardson should take the money and run to the NFL

Anthony Richardson has a lot of good reasons to stay at Florida another year. But there are more good reasons for him to declare for the NFL Draft, which is what he’ll probably do.

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun

It’s hard to pity a 21-year-old with the world at his feet. But consider the odd spot Anthony Richardson is in.

Florida’s quarterback can turn pro and instantly become set for life. Or he can stick around Gainesville, live well and maybe enhance his career prospects.

Either way, he can’t lose. Either way, he can’t win.

Whatever he decides, a million or so would-be confidants will say he made the wrong move. Allow me to be the one-million-and-first.

There are a lot of good reasons why the pride of Gainesville Eastside should stay in college. But there are more good reasons why he should declare for the NFL Draft.

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That’s why I think Richardson will take the money and run. He already does that at a professional level. Hopefully, he’ll eventually learn how to throw like an NFL quarterback.

It could be years before we know how that turns out. For now, the suspense over Richardson's immediate future is killing Gator Nation.

It increased last week when UF suspended backup QB Jalen Kitna after he was arrested on child pornography charges. On Friday, Kitna was kicked off the football team. Football concerns are trivial compared to that bombshell, but there are ramifications.

If Richardson decides to turn pro, he must also decide whether to play in Florida’s bowl game. Without him, the most likely replacement is Ohio State transfer Jack Miller.

He didn’t take a snap all season after breaking his thumb in August and has completed seven collegiate passes. Behind Miller are walk-on Kyle Engel and true freshman Max Brown.

The bowl is a relatively meaningless affair. But talk about being up a creek without a quarterback.

AR gave hint prior to playing Florida State

Add that to the many factors currently swirling in Richardson’s young head. He’s given little indication of what he’ll do, though a good hint came before the FSU game.

Speaking hypothetically about a college prospect pondering an NFL move, Richardson said, “It could bring a lot of pressure on that person.”

That person would have to talk to his family and do a lot of heavy thinking, he said. Then came the clue.

“Sometimes,” Richardson said, “you’ve got to be selfish and see what’s on the table.”

One of AR’s real confidants should tell him not to worry about that. There’s nothing selfish in making a career move that would at least triple your salary.

Yes, everybody agrees Richardson is nowhere near ready for the NFL. But at least a few teams seem ready for Richardson and his off-the-chart potential. That’s fueled the season-long debate.

Should he stay for another year of live fire against SEC opponents? Or would he be better off starting an NFL apprenticeship?

Prior to Name, Image, License, Richardson's decision much easier

Pre-NIL, the decision would have been much easier. Lifelong financial security was better than another year of eating burgers as the Big Man on Campus.

Now, Richardson has $1 million or so in NIL deals coming in. He’s not complaining about making as much as incoming UF president Ben Sasse, but it’s still not NFL money.

Rookie contracts are four-year deals based on draft position. The 10th pick is making $3.7 million this fall, got a $12.1 million bonus and a total package worth $20.5 million.

The last pick in the first round is making $2.1 million, got a $5.5 million bonus and a package worth $11.5 million.

Richardson is expected to go somewhere in the mid-to-late first round. Wherever he’s picked, he stands to make a lot more money than if he stayed at Florida.

Then again, if he sticks around and has a gonzo season, Richardson could move near the top of the 2024 NFL wish list. That would enhance his status as a hometown hero.

He could also get injured and see his draft desirability drop.

And it’s always better to leave too soon than too late. After all the growing pains the past two seasons, UF and AR might both benefit from a fresh start.

I want him to stay, strictly for selfish reasons. Good AR or Bad AR, he’s usually a thrill to watch.

Pondering AR doesn’t need my input. If he had two cents for all the two cents worth of advice people have offered him, he could buy an NFL team and declare himself QB for life.

He should ignore all the chatter, stop worrying about looking selfish and go with his gut feeling.

It should tell him staying would be a good move. But all things considered, leaving would be a better one.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley.