Sam Bradford is set to make up to $20 million this year as the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals. That will bring his lifetime earnings to over $134 million. That’s absolutely astonishing when you think about the path he’s taken and that he has never taken his team to the playoffs or even made the Pro Bowl.
Bradford was drafted first overall by the Rams in 2010. Although his career has been marred by injury, he’s still been paid like a top pick throughout it. That’s not changing with his latest deal in Arizona, either. Let’s look at Bradford’s career and compensation by the numbers.
St. Louis Rams: $65,060,000
His first deal — signed before the current CBA put a rookie wage scale into effect — was the priciest ever for a rookie. The $78 million deal carried $50 million in guarantees and had escalators that could have maxed it out at $86 million. The early returns were promising: Bradford broke Peyton Manning’s record for the most completed passes by a rookie and was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The Rams didn’t end up paying out that much, though. Spotrac shows that Bradford earned over $65 million with the Rams, which is still a whole damn lot, especially when you consider the following:
- Bradford started 49 games. That’s over $1.3 million per game.
- He won just 18 games during his tenure there. He also had one tie, so we’re going to be charitable. $65.06 million divided by 19 is over $3.4 million per win or tie.
- Bradford made almost $5,880 per passing yard, $1,102,712 per passing touchdown, and over $63,000 for each completed pass.
There were extenuating circumstances. Bradford played through a high-ankle sprain through most of his second season. He tore his ACL midway through 2013 and then lost the entire 2014 season after tearing the same ACL in a preseason game. The Rams shipped him off to the Eagles via trade during the 2015 offseason.
Philadelphia Eagles: $23,998,119
Bradford started 14 games for the Eagles during a 2015 season that saw him suffer through a concussion and a shoulder injury. The Eagles went 7-7 during his starts. He made:
- More than $1.7 million per start, and over $3.4 million per win.
- Just over $6,442 for each of his 3,725 passing yards for the Eagles.
- $1.263 million per each of his 19 touchdown passes.
The Eagles signed Bradford to an extension, and part of his income from Philadelphia was an $11 million signing bonus connected to that. But the Eagles moved up in the draft to take Carson Wentz with the No. 2 pick in 2016. Right before the season started, Bradford was shipped off to the Vikings after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a gruesome knee injury that would keep him off the field for almost two full seasons.
Minnesota Vikings: $25,026,285
Bradford was on the field for all but one game in his first season with the Vikings. He played well, finishing with 3,877 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, and five picks. His second season started strong, with a 346-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Saints in Week 1. But wear and tear on his knee cost him most of the rest of the 2017 season.
- The Vikings went 9-8 with Bradford as the starter. That’s over $1.47 million per start and $2.78 million per win.
- He made $5,876 per passing yard and $1.088 million per touchdown.
Quarterback salaries have skyrocketed, and teams have no choice but to throw outrageous amounts of money at players they think can be viable starters. If we were to break down any quarterback’s pay per win or touchdown or any other key stat, the numbers would be astronomical. That’s the nature of the position right now.
When Bradford has been healthy, he’s generally played well. And it’s not like he tricked teams into giving him these deals. None of this is Bradford’s fault.
But injuries have kept him from reaching his potential and turned him into a bit of a journeyman. He’s never started a playoff game with any team and he hasn’t finished with a winning record as a starter in even one of his eight seasons. That’s why it is staggering to look at the fact that the Cardinals are handing him another $20 million for the 2018 season with an option to hold on to him for $20 million more in 2019. Ravens safety Eric Weddle agrees.
So dumb. Bradford has been paid more for nothing than anyone in history of nfl— Eric Weddle (@weddlesbeard) March 13, 2018
But the Cardinals need a quarterback, so they’re willing to gamble on Bradford. And who knows? If he stays healthy and plays up to his first overall pick potential, he’ll be worth every penny.