NFL injuries can be absolutely crushing, in more than one way. Take Sam Bradford's season-ending ligament tear, for example. The St. Louis Rams starting quarterback is out for the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee for the second time in less than a year.
“We lost our starting quarterback, but for Sam personally, it’s devastating,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said at a press conference Sunday. “The news was devastating for him this morning, as you can appreciate. Anyone that’s gone through that procedure [ACL surgery] and the rehab understands, to have it happen again within the calendar year is very, very difficult. So we’re thinking of Sam.”
As difficult as the injury must be for the 26-year-old Bradford, it’s also painful in a very different way for his team. Bradford had been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and was signed to a six-year, $78 million contract, including a signing bonus of nearly $18 million and $50 million in guaranteed money, according to NFL contract tracking website Overthecap.com.
Bradford was the last top pick in the draft to sign such a huge deal. The NFL’s 2011 collective bargaining agreement introduced a rookie wage scale that drastically reduced contract sizes for players coming into the league — for reasons highlighted again by Bradford’s latest injury.
Both owners and veteran players were unhappy with players getting such huge deals, with large guaranteed sums, before proving themselves on the field. Quarterbacks Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, the top picks in 2011 and 2012 respectively, each signed four-year deals for $22 million guaranteed, with the teams holding an option for a fifth year.
Even before his latest injury, Bradford’s contract was something of an albatross for the Rams. Of the 20 quarterbacks chosen with the top pick in the draft, Bradford had played the third fewest games in his first five seasons in the NFL, behind only JaMarcus Russell, an all-time bust, and Alex Smith, who languished for years in San Francisco.
And when he was on the field, Bradford only put up mediocre stats, including a below-average quarterback rating, to go with an 18-30-1 won-loss record.
Those numbers aren’t solely Bradford’s fault — but they make his $78 million deal look awfully expensive. And it just got even worse.
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