Sam's now officially a Ram, and the richest rookie in NFL history.
Just in time for the first full-squad practice of training camp, the Rams struck a deal with No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford, the quarterback from the University of Oklahoma.
Bradford's deal is worth a whopping $78 million over six years with $50 million in guaranteed money, sources for both the Rams and Bradford's agent said Friday night. If certain incentives are reached it can max out at $86 million.
All of which tops last year's record-setting deal of $72 million over six years when Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford was the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Detroit Lions. Stafford's deal included incentives that could raise the maximum value of the deal to $78 million.
"I kept hearing during this process, especially early in the process, that maybe Sam didn't want to be here," Rams executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff said Friday night, referring to speculative media reports, mainly made before the draft. "But I've never heard Sam say anything but how excited he was to be in St. Louis, and how excited he is about the opportunity to help make this team successful again.
"I talked to Sam earlier tonight, and he's very excited. I'm excited that every fan will want to see the beginning of a new era with him and the Rams and our other new players."
After missing two days of training camp practices Thursday and Friday — practices for rookies and selected veterans only — Bradford is expected be on the field for today's 3 p.m. practice at Rams Park, the first full squad practice of training camp.
"It was important to the Rams and us to be able to be there for the first day," said Tom Condon, who along with Ben Dogra represents Bradford for the CAA Football sports agency. "We'll be working through the night, going over the language. He won't sign it until Saturday."
There was a lot of paperwork to be finalized Friday night and into the morning before Bradford signs the deal.
"Sam wanted to be here Thursday," Demoff said. "But these are complex deals. I expect he'll practice Saturday. I think it's a credit to Tom and Ben and Sam for working diligently throughout the process. The most important thing, though, is Sam wanting to be here (on time)."
Bradford can now resume the business of becoming the franchise quarterback that the Rams hope he becomes over time. Obviously, the sooner the better for a team that has won only six of its last 48 games.
Rams coaches were impressed with Bradford's work during the spring minicamps and OTAs. He also threw the ball well, showing that he was recovered from a college shoulder injury — and subsequent surgery that temporarily cast doubt on his viability as a top draft pick.
With questions about his throwing arm apparently behind him, Bradford must now adjust to the speed of the NFL game and show a good working grasp of the offense. If not, veteran A.J. Feeley could be the starter Sept. 12 when the Rams open the 2010 season against Arizona.
Without playing down the importance of the three practices held with less than half the squad on Thursday and Friday, Demoff said the goal was always to have Bradford in no later than the first full-squad practice. Symbolically, it would have been tough to open full-squad practice without the new face of the franchise.
"You've seen Sam during the spring practices," Condon told the Post-Dispatch. "He's ultra-competitive, unbelievably conscientious, and completely committed. He certainly didn't want to lose any advantage, so it was important to him to get there to camp and get going. There's no question he's a special guy."