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Sam, I understand

Posted by Eric Fisher On May 7

Fisher column logo2Sam Bradford is wrong. Let’s start with that.

Bradford is getting paid a lot of money to play football. He has considerably more money guaranteed ($22 million) during his current two-year contract than nearly all of the fans who pack Lincoln Financial Field eight times each season will make in a lifetime.

Bradford doesn’t deserve any sympathy. He needs to act like he’s part of the team.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t warrant some understanding.

Bradford signed a two-year contract this offseason with the hope that he could prove to the Eagles he should be their quarterback of the future. Perhaps the fact that the contract is only for two years and $18 million of the $22 million in guaranteed money is put into the first year – making it less painful for the Eagles to cut ties with Bradford after the upcoming season – should have led Bradford to realize the Eagles viewed him as a stopgap measure. On the other hand, he may have rationalized the contract terms as meaning the Eagles did not want a long-term financial commitment to a quarterback with his extensive injury history.

The next clue for Bradford should have been the three-year, $21 million contract, with $12 million reportedly guaranteed, the Eagles gave to free-agent quarterback Chase Daniel, who played for the Chiefs while new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator. That’s far more money than the typical backup quarterback is paid.

Having a backup quarterback with more years on his contract than the starter, and with so much money guaranteed, should have set off Bradford’s “spidey sense.” Apparently, it did not. Nor did the Eagles’ trade of Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso to the Dolphins to move up to the No. 8 overall pick around the same time they signed Daniel.

But Bradford’s “spidey sense” started tingling full blast on April 20 when the Eagles traded up in the draft, acquiring the No. 2 pick from the Browns.

The trade left no doubt that the Eagles were going to select a quarterback. Not only were they going to select a quarterback, but they were going to select a quarterback with the second overall pick.

In a column this past week, Inquirer sports columnist Mike Sielski points out that in the last 10 NFL Drafts prior to this year, “25 quarterbacks were selected in the first round. Of those 25, 15 started for their teams in Week 1, and 21 started before their rookie seasons were half-finished.” Taking this concept further, Sielski notes that of the 11 quarterbacks selected among the first three picks, nine of them started in Week 1.

Given those statistics, it’s difficult to believe that Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall selection, will spend the entire 2016 season on the sidelines wearing a baseball cap. When you consider the cost the Eagles paid to move up to the second pick in the draft, it reinforces the likelihood that Wentz will start in 2016, with Game 1 of the 2017 season being the absolute latest for him to take the starting quarterback reins.

Barring a major injury to Wentz, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a plausible scenario in which Bradford returns to the Eagles for the second year of his contract.

A popular sentiment is that Bradford should stop whining. He’s making $18 million this season. So what if he doesn’t start the whole season? Tough crap. Shut up and count your money.

But Bradford already has plenty of money. He was paid handsomely for being the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. What if he isn’t playing for the money?

What if Bradford signed with the Eagles because he thought this was his best opportunity to grow with a team and be part of the development of a championship contender? What if he signed with the Eagles because he felt loyalty toward the organization with which he made his comeback in 2015 after missing nearly two full seasons with torn ACLs?

Athletes are often criticized for being mercenaries whose only loyalty is to the almighty dollar. Perhaps Bradford doesn’t fit that stereotype. Perhaps he truly wanted to remain an Eagle for the rest of his career, and is hurt now that it’s obvious the Eagles have no intention of building their future around him.

Jeff Carter received a similar backlash from many fans when the Flyers traded him to the Blue Jackets in 2011. Having signed a long-term contract with the Flyers, the relatively young center thought he was a foundation of the team’s future. When he was traded to Columbus, Carter, feeling hurt and betrayed, retreated to his beach house in Sea Isle, N.J.

Like Carter, Bradford has been emotionally bruised by the Eagles’ decision that he is not part of their future. He is being asked to put his body on the line for a team that is likely to discard him after this season. It’s difficult to be fully committed to an organization when the organization is not committed to you.

How would you feel working for the next year for a company that has already hired your replacement? Granted, it would be a lot easier for $18 million, but the point is it’s unlikely you would have a positive attitude about your job.

Although I believe Bradford should have taken a different public stance, let’s not let the Eagles off the hook for their responsibility in creating this mess.

Howie Roseman described a master plan in which the Eagles worked their way up to getting in position to draft Wentz through a series of trades. If this were true, then why did they re-sign Bradford?

And while there was a story this past week that Bradford isn’t returning the Eagles’ calls, Roseman revealed this past week that he hadn’t called Bradford. Shouldn’t Roseman, especially the supposedly kinder, more sensitive Roseman, have reached out to Bradford when the Eagles made the trade for the No. 2 pick?

Roseman could have told Bradford this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Depending on Bradford’s reaction, Roseman could have said that the Eagles would like Bradford back, but would explore trade options if that’s what he wanted.

The Eagles could have, and should have, handled this situation much better.

Should Sam Bradford report to the Eagles’ voluntary mini-camps? Yes.

But should people show a little more understanding for Bradford’s unhappiness with his situation and stop calling him a crybaby (and worse)? Absolutely.



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