There has been a rush in the past few days to equate the release of safety Tyrann Mathieu with the signing of quarterback Sam Bradford, but they are separate entities.
While there is always sticker shock on the deals quarterbacks receive, that position is far and away the most important in the NFL, and teams must pay a premium because arm talent is scarce. If Bradford receives the reported maximum amount of $20 million in 2018, he will be the highest-paid player on the Cardinals -- but in the context of quarterbacks, it's not an egregious amount.
According to OverTheCap.com, Bradford's average salary is only the 17th-highest out of the 24 prospective starting quarterbacks who are no longer on their rookie deal. Additionally, the short-term nature of it means Bradford's reported guarantee of $15 million is one of the lowest amounts for any starting quarterback in the league.
If Bradford comes to Arizona and plays well, the Cardinals have the ability to keep him in 2019 for a below market price. If he gets hurt or struggles, there is an easy path to walk away without a debilitating amount of dead money hitting the salary cap.
Dollar for dollar, Bradford will make more in 2018 than Mathieu would have with the Cardinals. But Mathieu's contract should be looked at in comparison to other safeties, in which he would have been paid among the position's elite.
Bradford's injury history is concerning, but he's not being paid like a star relative to other quarterbacks. And among the veteran starters below him in salary – Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum, Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Josh McCown and A.J. McCarron – a case can be made that Bradford has the highest ceiling of them all.