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.
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 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.
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.