Bradford and Luck have some things in common. Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Luck was taken No. 1 in the 2012 draft. They are both quarterbacks, of course, so they tend to get paid more than their teammates.
There are also clear differences. Bradford was taken in the final draft under the NFL’s former collective bargaining agreement. He received the kind of inflated rookie contract that the league all but eliminated in the 2011 CBA.
In 2010, Bradford received a six-year contract worth $78 million, with $50 million guaranteed. Bradford got a signing bonus just under $18 million.
Two years later, Luck received a four-year contract worth $22.1 million, about 28 percent of the total value of Bradford’s 2010 deal. Luck received a signing bonus of about $14.5 million. His entire contract was guaranteed, but that still amounted to roughly $28 million less guaranteed than Bradford’s deal.
As a first-round pick, Luck’s contract also gave the Colts a fifth-year option. The Colts exercised that option, which would have paid Luck $16.15 million for 2016. (The new contract wipes out the option year.) So that increased the total value of Luck’s rookie deal to $38.25 million – less than half of Bradford’s 2010 rookie deal.
In Bradford’s first six seasons – five with St. Louis (one of which he spent on injured reserve) and one with the Eagles – his record as a starting quarterback was 25-37-1, with a passer rating of 81.0. Bradford has never appeared in a playoff game.
In his first four seasons with the Colts, Luck’s record is 35-20. His passer rating is 85.0. His postseason record is 3-3. Luck took the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, including a trip to the AFC Championship Game after the 2015 season.
Luck was healthy for all three of those seasons. Last year, he missed nine games after lacerating a kidney and tearing an abdominal muscle.
This offseason, both quarterbacks agreed to new contracts. Bradford signed a two-year deal with the Eagles worth $35 million, with $22 million guaranteed.
Luck’s new deal is worth $140 million over six years, or nearly twice as much as Bradford’s $78 million rookie deal in 2010. Luck's signing bonus is $32 million, or nearly as much as Bradford’s whole two-year deal with the Eagles.
Bradford got his megadeal for being drafted. Luck got his for his performance in the NFL.
The more interesting comparison might actually be between Luck and Carson Wentz, the quarterback the Eagles took with the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft. There’s no way to compare the two as players: Luck started from Day 1 and was successful immediately, while Wentz is expected to spend much of his rookie year on the sideline. But Wentz came into the league under the same CBA that dictated Luck’s earning potential.
Wentz received a four-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $26.7 million, including a $17.6 million signing bonus. Wentz will be subject to the same fifth-year option that the Colts used to retain Luck’s rights before negotiating a new deal.
Ultimately, Wentz’s future earnings, like Luck’s, will be determined by performance. Luck’s deal nudged the bar a bit higher for quarterback contracts (although not as much as some observers expected or hoped). The Eagles have to deal with that reality in 2020.
Of course, that assumes Wentz will prove himself worthy of the kind of contract Luck just received. If he does, the Eagles won’t mind giving it to him.