Reportedly Sam Bradford is unhappy with the Eagles decision to trade up to select a quarterback in the draft and may ask the Eagles for a trade, despite the fact that the Eagles have publically stated that he will be the starter this season. The Eagles signed Bradford this offseason to a two year contract that has already paid him $11 million and guarantees him $11 million more. Does Bradford have a real gripe here or not?
Once Bradford agreed to a two year contract he had to understand that he was not necessarily the future for the Eagles. Despite the large price tag that he carried a two year contract at this position is generally what is given to what I would refer to as a “settlement QB”. Those are the players a team would like to upgrade from but they settle for that player because of the scarcity of talent at the position. His security was no different than that of Nick Foles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown, Robert Griffin, or countless others we lump into this category.
When you look at the structure of the contract you see potential for a large gain by the Eagles if he is released in 2017. I’m assuming his salary has an offset since the Eagles were burned on those years ago so the net impact in 2017 will most likely wind up being $5.5 million on their cap. That was the price they were willing to accept for cap relief this year as they geared up for a spending spree of sorts in free agency.
We are not privy to any of the actual negotiations but had Bradford wanted to solidify himself as a starter in the Eagles organization he had to propose a four or five year contract offer. The longer you are willing to commit to a team, generally the larger guarantee they give you since they are buying out those potential free agent years. That is how a Brock Osweiler is able to land nearly $40 million guaranteed.
Now the Eagles may not have been open to such a scenario or at least not at that cost, but neither side showed commitment to the other in this one. Basically the Eagles guaranteed him slightly more than the franchise tag in return for cap flexibility and better payment terms, but make no mistake this very well is a one year deal for them. Bradford gets his chance at free agency again in no more than two years.
The fact that Bradford signed this contract also shows that there was hesitation on his part as to his worth as a free agent. That decision may have changed in light of the Osweiler deal, but when Bradford signed this contract a number of people, myself included, were pretty surprised that Bradford landed as much money as he did. He’s basically been an unproven quarterback across a 6 year career whose main accolade is being a number 1 draft pick. His side probably saw this as an opportunity to get maximum value in two years and then be able to prove the doubters wrong and score massive in free agency in 2018.
Those decisions are on Bradford. They easily could have forced the Eagles and with the franchise tag, collected about $3 million less in guarantees and been a free agent in 2017. Or he could have just been a free agent this year and gotten whatever the market would bear. They chose the option that was always going to leave open the door to bringing in another quarterback.
Even still is there reason for Bradford to be worried? I don’t think so. There are basically a few scenarios that will play out here.
Scenario A: Bradford Plays Great
If Bradford plays well and starts 32 games across the next two years, he loses nothing. His position with free agency is exactly where it was when he signed this contract. If the Eagles decide to move to the rookie after the year Bradford will be traded and accepted with open arms after proving he can be an A list QB.
Scenario B: Bradford Plays Poorly
Similar to the above scenario, Bradford’s contract plays out the same way. Had the Eagles not drafted a QB and Bradford stunk he would have collected his salary for 2016, been cut in 2017, and then tried to land a job where he could compete in 2017. The only thing that changes in this scenario is that Bradford is replaced by a different name.
Scenario C: Eagles opt to Play the Rookie
In this case Bradford doesn’t play at all this year. Nobody sees if he is better or worse than before. The spin will be that the Eagles wanted to get the rookie snaps for the future. No harm comes to Braford. Bradford collects his salary for 2016, is released in 2017, and looks to find a new home. All he did is delay this years free agency by one year and likely collected more money this year by doing so. He cant show an upside if this happens but had he played great he still would have had to honor his 2017 contract year anyway, so financially it likely wont be that much of a blow. He is viewed as a victim of circumstance here.
Scenario D: Eagles Pull the Plug Mid-Season Despite Playing OK
This is the one scenario where Bradford is probably hurt the most. For this to happen the Eagles team is likely playing poorly and, unlike being benched before the season begins, the team’s performance will be held as an indictment on Bradford, even though he’ll probably be passable at the time. This will be looked at as a performance pull regardless of the actual motivations of the team. I kind of feel if this happens hell get knocks as a “poor player” like in scenario B but it’s not warranted.
Still I don’t see much, financially, for Bradford to lose if the Eagles draft a QB. Most likely everything will play out just as it would if he was backed up by Chase Daniel or Mark Sanchez, who were the other options at various points this offseason.
There should be no shock here. No surprise. They left themselves open to this the minute they agreed to the two year contract. It may be in the Eagles best interest to trade Bradford, but there were multiple ways Bradford could have avoided, or lessened the chance of, this scenario. There really is no reason to complain about it (unless the Eagles flat out told him they would not draft a QB if he signed,) when you helped enable the Eagles to make the decision
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.