Sam Bradford And the Contract
Sam Bradford wouldn’t look up from the here and now — not even for a moment to return Chip Kelly‘s serve.
Earlier in the week, Kelly indicated that he would like to have Bradford on the Eagles long-term. “We wouldn’t have traded for him if we thought he was going to be here for a year,” he said.
Bradford told reporters Wednesday that “it’s great to hear those things, but I don’t think that really means a whole lot, and it’s not really going to change the way I approach things. I’m sure I’ll play more attention to that stuff in the offseason.”
Several more attempts to get Bradford to offer the smallest hint about his thoughts on a potential deal with the Eagles/free agency were turned away, the QB maintaining that he’s only concentrating on the three games that lie before him. And really, that’s exactly where his eyes should be. But everyone involved is fully aware that there will be some critical decisions to make in the near future.
To get a better feel for the options available to both parties and the amount of money that could be attached to a Bradford deal, we turned to former agent/contracts and salary cap expert Joel Corry.
Corry crunched some numbers for a piece he did for CBS Sports, which revealed that the average deal for veteran quarterbacks in the NFL comes out to four years and a touch over $17 million annually. Eighteen quarterbacks are currently making north of $15 million per year. Couple those figures with the fact that the salary cap is growing (it could go up $10 million in 2016 according to some estimates), and it seems fair to suggest that Bradford could end up in the $15-20 million range, particularly if he finishes on a strong note.
Of course, the devil is in the details when it comes to contracts.
Andy Dalton, for instance, signed a six-year, $96 million contract ($16 million average) in 2014, but closer inspection shows that just $17 million is guaranteed, making it fairly easy to get out of. Colin Kaepernick‘s deal is presented as six years, $114 million ($19 million average), but it’s structured in a pay-as-you-go format, where the Niners essentially get to choose each offseason whether they want to continue on with the marriage.
That would surely be an attractive set-up for the Eagles. But one key difference in this situation relative to the two examples above is that Bradford is represented by Tom Condon, who probably wouldn’t look too favorably on that type of structure.
“[His contracts are] not team-friendly, that’s for damn sure. You won’t be seeing a Colin Kaepernick-Andy Dalton deal out of Tom Condon,” said Corry. “That’s not something that Tom Condon is going to do for any starting quarterback.”
Let’s look, then, at a couple of Condon-negotiated contracts.
Alex Smith and Matthew Stafford are two of his QB clients whose deals might be relevant here. Stafford signed a three-year, $53 million extension ($17.7 avg.) with the Lions in 2013 that included a $27.5 million signing bonus and $41.5 million guaranteed. Smith, meanwhile, inked a four-year, $68 million extension ($17 million avg.) in 2014 with an $18 million signing bonus and $45 million guaranteed.
Unlike the Kaepernick deal, these aren’t easy to cut away from. Smith, for instance, had the majority of his 2014 and ’15 salary fully guaranteed, while the ’16 salary ($14.1 million) became fully guaranteed this past March. The design is such that the Chiefs are all but locked in for the first three years of the deal.
“People in Kansas City were up in arms when Alex Smith got $45 million in guarantees, in which 30 was fully guaranteed at signing,” said Corry. “It’s going to have to be something structured along those lines if it’s a Tom Condon deal.
“And considering that would be a two-year old deal that Condon did, he’s not going to go backwards from a deal he did two years ago.”
The Eagles have the option of placing the franchise tag on Bradford. Corry estimates that the non-exclusive tag could be around $19-$20 million while the exclusive tag could cost in the $25 million range. While those figures might go down some in between now and when the league year opens, it’s going to be a big number. The preference would be to get a longer-term deal done.
The Eagles tried locking him up to an incentive-laden deal this offseason, which would have paid him like a franchise quarterback if he performed like one. Bradford’s side resisted and are now in line to get a more favorable contract should the rest of the season go as hoped.
Kelly, Howie Roseman and company still have angles to argue to try and keep the price down. Bradford has sustained three concussions, has torn his ACL twice and has had a number of other injuries over his playing career. And even with his recent uptick, he still ranks 29th in yards per attempt, 28th in passer rating and is tied for 25th in touchdowns thrown this season. Whether it be this year or with the Rams, he has not established himself as among the elite.
Those points will undoubtedly be raised during negotiations and should have some effect, but as Corry points out, you don’t have to be flawless to cash in at the QB position thanks to one basic NFL truth.
“You actually have more teams than there are capable starting quarterbacks,” he said. “So if you’ve got anyone who is capable and he hits the open market, which is rare, then you should have a lot of leverage.”
That leverage will be influenced by, among other things, the level of outside interest in Bradford and his performance down the stretch (and potentially in the postseason). We are still several weeks away, then, from having all the answers. But safe to say that if it goes well for Bradford from here on in, some serious dollars are to follow.