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If Sam Bradford is worth 50 million guaranteed, what is Tom Brady worth?

Posted by Jason Lisk on August 2, 2010

Sam Bradford's new contract of 50 million guaranteed over six seasons has renewed the cries of a rookie wage scale. One of the notable things about this is the impact it may have on the upcoming contract negotiation involving Tom Brady.

So how much is Tom Brady worth compared to Sam Bradford? Let's be clear, we don't know what will happen to either of these players, and individual results will vary. Still, we can try to take a look at the past to frame the question. Some will argue that Bradford hasn't played a down, so how can he be worth anything close to a three-time Super Bowl champion? The problem with that is, unlike professions where experience, knowledge and training are more important, in the NFL, it is all about what you will do, not what you have done, in determining contract value. Tom Brady turns 33 this season, so a long term deal the same length as that signed by Bradford would carry him to age 38. Bradford, meanwhile, will be in the first six seasons of his career.

To put together some comparables for Brady, I found all QB's who threw at least 1,500 passes from ages 28-32 since the merger, were above the league average in ANYA+ over that five year period, were still above average at age 32, and started the next season as the starter. For Bradford, I pulled all quarterbacks drafted in the top 5 picks from 1970-2004 (and are thus past season 6).

Let's start with the Brady comps. Here is a summary of how many were retired, were reserves (including injuries where they ended up throwing fewer passes than another QB on the roster), or were primary starters at each age from 33 to 38.

Age Retired Reserve Starter
33 0 2 20
34 0 3 19
35 5 3 14
36 6 5 11
37 10 5 7
38 12 5 5

This next table breaks down those who were primary starters at each age by performance in ANYA+. Bad = ANYA+ of 84 or less; Below Avg = ANYA+ of 85 to 99; Above Avg = ANYA+ of 100 to 114; Great = ANYA+ of 115 or more.

Age Bad Below Avg Above Avg Great
33 0 4 7 8
34 3 3 7 5
35 1 4 5 4
36 1 7 2 1
37 0 3 1 2
38 0 2 2 1

Now to the Bradford comps using the same charts:

Year Retired Reserve Starter
1 0 14 17
2 0 9 22
3 0 5 26
4 0 4 27
5 4 5 22
6 5 6 20

And the chart showing the performance of the Bradford comp primary starters:

Year Bad Below Avg Above Avg Great
1 8 7 2 0
2 6 11 4 1
3 8 6 6 6
4 6 7 9 5
5 3 8 7 4
6 1 6 8 5

Finally, let's put them together, showing the percentage of players who were not starting at each age (either reserves, injured, or retired), and who were bad, below average, above average, and great at each year.

Player Year Not Starting Bad Below Avg Above Avg Great
Brady Year 1 0.09 0.00 0.18 0.32 0.36
Brady Year 2 0.14 0.14 0.14 0.32 0.23
Brady Year 3 0.36 0.05 0.18 0.23 0.18
Brady Year 4 0.50 0.05 0.32 0.09 0.05
Brady Year 5 0.68 0.00 0.14 0.05 0.09
Brady Year 6 0.77 0.00 0.09 0.09 0.05
Bradford Year 1 0.45 0.26 0.23 0.06 0.00
Bradford Year 2 0.29 0.19 0.35 0.13 0.03
Bradford Year 3 0.16 0.26 0.19 0.19 0.19
Bradford Year 4 0.13 0.19 0.23 0.29 0.16
Bradford Year 5 0.29 0.10 0.26 0.23 0.13
Bradford Year 6 0.35 0.03 0.19 0.26 0.16

Overall, the Brady comps started 57.6% of the available seasons from age 33-38, while the Bradford comps started 72.0% in the first six seasons. However, the Bradford comps had more bad starting seasons. If we look at just above average and great starting seasons, the Brady comps have a slight edge, 34.1% to 30.6%. The Brady comps are better early, when the Bradford comps are struggling as young players, while the Bradford comps are better late, when many of the Brady comps are sitting at home or holding a clipboard.

In the very first post on this blog, Doug looked at a similar question in regard to Reggie Bush and Shaun Alexander. The answer is roughly similar here. Brady is worth a little more than Bradford, but not by a huge margin. Brady appears safer early on, and is the better investment for a current contender. He also provides an earlier return on a large investment, which is also worth something. However, you shouldn’t expect him to get a substantially larger amount of guaranteed money, as very few star quarterbacks stayed productive past age 36, which would be the fourth year of any new deal.

This entry was posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2010 at 5:50 am and is filed under Quarterbacks. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.