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Is Sam Bradford The Most Overpaid Player In NFL History?

With just 83 NFL games under his belt and more than $127 million collected, the recently released NFL quarterback is making a very strong case.

Photo Courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals

On Saturday, the Arizona Cardinals released quarterback Sam Bradford amidst a dreadful season that could prove to be one of the franchise’s worst ever.  Bradford, 30, is considered to be in the prime of his National Football League career but given all of the woes in Arizona, it seems like the team no longer wanted to take on his bloated contract.  Pricey contracts are nothing new for the former Heisman Trophy winner and with Bradford now looking to join a fifth team in the last four years, is he the most overpaid player in NFL history?

There’s no denying Bradford has the skill set to play professional football.  As a member of the Oklahoma Sooners, he turned in one of the greatest seasons ever by a college quarterback, throwing for more than 4,700 yards, 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions to earn a Quarterback Rating (QBR) of 180.86.  In the end though, the Florida Gators proved to be too much for Bradford and the No. 1 ranked Sooners, who fell just short of the National Championship.  And despite all of his success, Bradford elected to return to college football for another shot at the title the following season, though a shoulder injury kept him out for all but three games.  Still, that did little to stop him from getting taken first overall by the St. Louis Rams, where he would receive a hefty contract.

Back in 2010, rookie contracts were a little different then today, given that the league has implemented the rookie pay scale, allowing the top pick to get the most and a scaled back dollar amount for each pick thereafter.  Bradford, who had one of the best college careers in recent memory, signed a six-year, $78 million deal – with $50 million guaranteed and an additional $8 million in incentives. It’s the largest contract ever given to a NFL rookie, though it’s tough to say Bradford earned even the guaranteed money during in St. Louis.

In five seasons with the Rams, the last of which he didn’t play because of injury, Bradford started 49 of a possible 64 games and St. Louis failed to finish above 7-9.  His best season came during the 2012 campaign, when Bradford threw for over 3,700 yards but had a less than impressive 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a QBR of 82.6.  A torn ACL would ultimately become his demise and the Rams would wind up trading him away, along with a fifth round pick, to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Nick Foles and two draft picks.  Bradford would spend just one season in Philadelphia, despite signing a two-year, $35 million deal, finishing 7-9 with almost as many interceptions as touchdowns.  In late summer, he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings – to make way for Carson Wentz – for a first round pick, a move that is still baffling, since it turned into Derrick Barnett.

But Bradford experienced success in his first year in Minnesota, throwing for almost 3,800 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 15 games.  It looked like he might be the answer for the Vikings, until a knee-tear left him out for the season.  That allowed the team to explore other options at the position and never giving Bradford another opportunity.  And then there was his time in Arizona on a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $15 million – $5 million salary, $10 million signing bonus.  The Cardinals ended up paying Bradford for just three games of work, or almost $250,000 per pass.

According to Over The Cap, Bradford has made a total of $129,982,500 over the course of his nine-year NFL career and his cap average per year is $16,247,813.  Let’s compare that to his stats: 83 career games, 19,449 yards, 103 touchdowns, 61 interceptions and a QBR of 84.5.  All while failing to help his teams get above 8-8 – that screams mediocrity and proves he was never worth his contracts.  Those numbers have to put Bradford in the conversation as one of the most overpaid players ever, with guys like Jay Cutler – who made just over $122 million and finished with a 85.3 QBR – and Carson Palmer – who made more than $174 million and finished with a 87.9 QBR.  Keep in mind, both of those players put together a couple of pretty good statistical years and won a playoff game.

But you’re probably thinking players like JaMarcus Russell, Albert Haynesworth and Ryan Leaf could be considered more overpaid.  There’s a big difference between a bust and a player that has a journeyman-type career who constantly receives bloated contracts, however.  The best part of this Bradford news, at least for Bradford, is that it seems highly likely that another team looking for a short-term bridge quarterback, like the San Francisco 49ers, the Buffalo Bills or the Denver Broncos, will take a chance on Bradford with a one or two-year deal and he’ll continue to make loot while probably failing to stay healthy.  No one can’t fault Bradford for that, because we would all do the same thing.