Grantland's Bill Barnwell, respected stat guy, recently wrote a series of articles listing the top 50 NFL players in terms of their trade value. For a player ranked 25th for example a team would probably at least consider dealing him for one of the first 24 players on the list, but they wouldn't bother having much of a conversation for players 26 through 50. Sam Bradford didn't make the list and Barnwell follows up that article with an article today about the worst contracts at each position. Can you guess which QB Barnwell believes is the worst value based on their contract? Yep, you guessed it.
The Five Categories of Truly Terrible Contracts
The Old-CBA Rookie Deal: Under the old collective bargaining agreement, rookies taken at the top of the draft were paid exorbitant sums before ever stepping onto a football field. Jake Long memorably became the highest-paid offensive lineman in league history after signing his rookie deal. It's an issue that was corrected with the new CBA, but there are still a few stragglers on mammoth rookie contracts.
The Marginal Talent: This problem reared its head a lot during free agency in the last days of the old CBA, when the cap was rising so quickly that teams rarely found themselves in cap trouble. With the cap expanding at a far slower rate after the new CBA was signed in 2011, teams have generally avoided big deals for replacement-level veterans, but there were a few examples this past offseason, mainly concentrated with one team in the Midwest.
Paying for the Outlier: Too often, teams pay a premium for a player who has one season that stands out like a sore thumb on his résumé. Usually, this happens right after that player had the one big season, and it comes even though the player might have been available at a much cheaper rate the previous year. The deals given out to Laurent Robinson and Mark Anderson before the 2012 season are examples of such a mistake.
System Guy Out of System: A player's teammates and fit within a system can drastically distort his value before moving to a new organization. Too many teams have bought high on a second or third weapon in a good passing attack, only to find that the player in question — let's say his name rhymes with Deerless Dice — doesn't fare so well as the primary receiver in an offense with an inferior quarterback.
Ever Fallen in Love With a Player You Shouldn't Have? Teams are supposed to be the best judges of their own talent, but for a variety of reasons, they still make mistakes. They pay a premium to keep a guy off the market while waiting for development that never comes, or to retain a player who already knows their system out of the fear of having to both replace him and teach a new guy how to do his job. There's nothing wrong with re-signing your own players, of course, but signing them at above-market rates doesn't make for a better team.
Quarterback: Sam Bradford, Rams
Contract Flaw: The Old-CBA Rookie Deal
Bradford was the last first-overall pick before the new CBA was signed in 2011. As a result, he signed a six-year, $78 million deal that guaranteed him a whopping $50 million. Since then, Bradford has struggled with injuries and been an average-at-best starter under center for the Rams, which is a huge disparity versus the near–$13 million average cap hold he has had since the first year of his contract. Next year will be the first season when the Rams could seriously consider moving on from Bradford, because it will cost them "only" $10.2 million. If they wanted to cut Bradford after last season, it would have accelerated $23.3 million onto their 2013 cap. Even Mark Sanchez's contract extension can't compare to this.
Worse contract than this guy?