The national NFL media has been making the rounds to Rams Park this week. The latest to swing through was Ian Rapoport from the NFL Network. He shared his thoughts on the season ahead and the state of the St. Louis Rams. One of the things that stood out to me was something he said about Sam Bradford's contract.
And even Bradford, who has the final megadeal for rookie quarterbacks, will only cost the team $36 million over the next three years. It's not cheap like Andrew Luck's deal, but it's not crippling either.
Much has been made about the scope and size of Bradford's contract. And it is, to be sure, an example of just how unwieldy the old rookie pay scale system could be to teams picking at the top of the draft. Deals like that made it hard for long-struggling teams like the Rams to bootstrap their way out of the basement, especially when confounded by marginally competent general managers incapable of hitting on the other, cheaper draft picks with any frequency.
But rookies don't get paid like that anymore. Bradford's deal is a footnote now (and a sore point for free agent-hungry Rams fans).
According to the numbers at Over the Cap, Bradford counts $12.595 million this season. That's $3 million less than it was last season, and more than $5 million that the cap hit for next season. Still, his contract doesn't carry the biggest cap hit this year; that's Cortland Finnegan at $15 million. In 2015, the final year of his deal, Bradford's cap hit is $16.58 million.
Bradford's cap charge is about $10 million less in each of the next three seasons than Andrew Luck's deal. And compared to Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, both picked after the first round, it's massive. Teams drafting quarterbacks since the 2011 CBA are saving oodles of money, money that can be used elsewhere on the roster ... like the Colts did with $34 million deal for Gosder Cherilus. (It's proof that having money to spend isn't always an asset if you don't know how to do it smartly).
The Rams aren't being left out of the cheap rookie fun though. Trading away the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, gave the team two additional first-round picks over the next two years, for a grand total of four first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. Four potential cornerstone players at relative bargain basement prices.
Consider this, Tavon Austin and Alec Ogletree carry a combined cap total of less than $4.5 million this season. Pair the savings from those first-round rookies, as well as successful picks later in the draft like Janoris Jenkins, and it leaves the Rams with room to do things like lock up Chris Long to an extension and sign free agents like Jake Long.
Something else you have to factor in is the cap itself. It's been relatively flat since the new CBA went into effect, going up just over two percent this year. The league insists that it's not going up in 2014, but the NFLPA says otherwise. How much it goes up, if any, remains to be seen. The cap should go up again in 2015 when money from the massive new television contracts starts flowing into the league's coffers. The cap, as the PA will remind you, is tied to the league's profits.
At any rate, it goes right back to what Rapoport said in the first place, Bradford's contract is hefty, but it's so onerous to hold the Rams back going forward.
We'll save the discussion of Bradford's 2013 season and the potential for a new deal for some other time.