SAM Bradford is a player NFL teams should fear when it comes to contract negotiations.
The Minnesota Vikings quarterback has amassed a fortune in his NFL career by playing the contract game better than anyone.
All three of the contracts he has signed since entering the league as the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft have been negotiated when favourable circumstances have aligned to provide the 29-year-old with all the leverage he has needed to break open his team’s piggy bank.
Some of it is luck. Some of it is genius.
In a special report from Sports Illustrated’s MMQB, Bradford’s earnings from his time at the Rams, Eagles and Vikings present a textbook case of a player turning the tables on an NFL team to squeeze them for every cent he believes he is worth.
While many NFL critics believe Bradford’s incredible career wage earnings of more than $114 million over eight seasons goes much further than his performances on the field — where he’s never made the playoffs, there can be no denying his performance in front-office negotiations.
A new two-year, $35 million contract extension he signed with Minnesota in March, 2016, to take him through until the end of the 2017 season, saw Bradford feature at No. 60 in Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid athletes of last year with total annual earnings of $24.3 million.
That’s just the cherry on top of an extensive career of rich NFL contracts.
From even before the moment the St Louis Rams (now Los Angeles Rams) selected him with the No. 1 pick, everything was coming up Bradford.
The University of Oklahoma product’s draft class was the last one to enter the NFL before sweeping changes to the league’s Collective Bargaining agreement with players saw rookie-level drafted players placed on rigid rookie-scaled contracts.
His rookie contract with the Rams included a staggering $50 million guaranteed.
This year’s No. 1 draft pick, Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns, is guaranteed just over $30 million, according to Forbes.
On top of that, the talent in the 2010 draft was notably thin — especially in quarterbacks, according to Business Insider — making the Rams even more desperate to secure Bradford on a long-term deal.
They actually signed him to a six-year $78 million deal (with $50 million guaranteed).
It was a genius and brave move by Bradford and his manager Tom Condon. Despite carrying a shoulder injury, he nominated for the 2010 draft. It was one year after star quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman entered the draft and one year before Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton entered the draft.
When the Rams baulked at paying Bradford his full salary in his sixth and final season he was traded to Philadelphia in exchange for quarterback Nick Foles and a second-round draft pick.
By the time he left his first franchise he’d earned $65 million in wages.
During that time the Rams never made the playoffs. They won just 29 of their 80 NFL matches in those five seasons.
The simple idea of leverage is a constant theme throughout his career and a contract blunder at the Eagles ensured he had a trump card up his sleeve when it came to renegotiate a new deal with his second team.
The Eagles overlooked the fact that he was moving to the franchise with just one season remaining on his contract and with no other quarterback options on the team’s roster.
Earning $13 million in his first season — 2015 — at the Eagles, the team upgraded him to an $18 million deal for 2016 and a further $4 million guaranteed as part of an $18 million deal for the 2017 season.
That deal also included an $11 million signing bonus.
It doesn’t end there.
By the time he walked out the door the Eagles had paid him $24 million for one season — where they went 7-9 and finished second in the NFC East without making the playoffs.
When the Vikings lost young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a long-term knee injury they panicked. They traded a first round draft pick to Philadelphia for Bradford.
The deal included a clause which saw the Vikings forced to pay out the final $7 million of Bradford’s 2016 contract.
The Vikings and Bradford also agreed to their deal for the upcoming 2017 season based around the $18 million the Eagles originally agreed to pay him.
In 2016, the Vikings went 8-8 and didn’t make the playoffs, but Bradford’s stocks remain incredibly high after finishing the 2016 season with the highest passing completion rate —71.2% — in the history of the game.
Bradford is off contract at the end of the 2017 season, but lady luck is smiling on him again.
With the Vikings cutting Bridgewater recently, Bradford is again the only recognised quarterback on their roster, once again making him the most important player — and you can bet that’s exactly what he’ll tell the team’s front office when they begin the negotiation for his next contract.
If you’ve been keeping track, that puts Bradford’s earnings — in wages alone — at $114 million.
If his previous track record is anything to go by, Bradford could well finish his career with career wages of more than $150 million.
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