Decades ago it was seen as a good thing to have the number one pick in the NFL draft (ignoring the obvious failures of the previous season). But as salaries skyrocketed, having high picks — especially the first overall pick — in the NFL draft began to be as much of a burden as it was an asset.
Too often teams were paying out absurd amounts of money to players who would never live up to the hype (see: Russell, Jamarcus). But with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011, the days of drafting “bonus babies” in the NFL are over. Sure, teams may still miss on high draft picks, but doing so isn’t the salary cap hell it once was. Actually, even hitting on high draft picks could be salary cap hell under the old rules, as a player’s second contract became even bigger than their rookie deal. Just ask the Lions about second contracts and various discussions regarding Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh.
But with those days over, we might as well pay tribute to the final #1 pick to truly cash in immediately: Rams QB Sam Bradford. On this day four years ago, Bradford agreed to terms with the Rams on a six-year, $78M contract, with $50M guaranteed. What have the Rams gotten out of Bradford since then? 49 starts, a subpar 79.3 QB rating, and exactly zero playoff appearances or winning seasons.
And Bradford isn’t even seen as that big a bust. In fact, he was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010, and was having a pretty good season last year before being lost for the year in the team’s 7th game. But it’s hard to find anyone out there who believes Bradford has been anywhere close to a player that is worth $13M a season, even for a starting NFL quarterback.
In case you were wondering, Cam Newton, the 2011 first overall pick received a guaranteed four-year deal worth just over $22M total, with a team option for year five that has since been picked up. The difference though in guarantees is striking, as is the overall difference in the Bradford and Newton deal.
On the bright side, with the type of deal Bradford signed, he can afford to look ridiculous at Rams’ practices.