For the players, NFL contracts are among the worst in professional sports. Upon entering the league, they're signed to fixed-rate contracts that can't be negotiated for three years. At most, they may get one or two shots at actually having leverage for a deal – if they're lucky.
However, there's one man who's somehow risen above all of the mess that surrounds NFL contracts. His name? Sam Bradford. Through an incredible combination of timing and luck, as well as a bit of skill, he's earned $114 million over eight seasons.
Bradford was the top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. That timing was terrific, as it was the last year of the old collective bargaining agreement. Rookies weren't locked into a pay scale then, so Bradford was able to sign for $50 million guaranteed with the Rams. The following season's number one overall pick, Cam Newton, only made $22 million guaranteed from the Panthers. To this day, the top overall pick in the draft gets less than $30 million guaranteed.
Bradford had a less than stellar career with the Rams – he never completed more than 61 percent of his passes in a season and missed 31 games due to injury over five seasons. In 2015, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Rams, wanted Bradford to take a pay cut. He refused, so they traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles for fellow quarterback Nick Foles and a second-round pick. In five years with the Rams, Bradford made $65 million.
At the time, Bradford had limited options. He could have either taken a pay cut to stay with the Rams, go to the Browns (who have had a rotating cast of characters at QB the past two decades), or be traded to the Eagles and learn from a coach who just led Foles to an incredible season. It should have been easy for the Eagles to offer him a modest deal to get him to stick around.
Instead, they didn't request an extension after trading for Bradford, so the quarterback and his agent, Tom Condon, were able to leverage a new deal to the tune of $18 million fully guaranteed in 2016, plus another $4 million guaranteed (and $18 million total) in 2017. In total, Bradford earned $24 million from the Eagles, even though the team gave up plenty of assets to draft his eventual replacement in Carson Wentz.
Last August, Bradford once again lucked out, albeit at the misfortune of someone else. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a knee injury that knocked him out for the entire season. That led to the Vikings trading for Bradford, giving up a first-round pick while absorbing Bradford's $7 million salary for last season and $18 million for this upcoming one. Bradford had already received an $11 million bonus from the Eagles.
Though he did have his best statistical season of his career in Minnesota, the team still didn't make the playoffs. Bradford has already made $25 million from the Vikings. And now, with Bridgewater's injury still murking the picture, Bradford is once again going to have the opportunity to earn a big contract.
Bradford has never made a Pro Bowl, yet he's made an average of $14.25 million per season. Not too shabby.