Bradford’s decision: financially motivated?

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Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will have season-ending surgery on his throwing shoulder and expects to declare for the NFL Draft in April, according to a statement he issued Sunday.

So what exactly does this mean for Bradford, and was it the right decision? As I wrote on Friday, I felt that if Bradford was primarily concerned with becoming the best possible quarterback prospect he could be, he would return for his senior year, prove that his shoulder is 100-percent healthy and improve his overall play.

However, with all the concern about the possibility of a rookie pay scale, plus the fact Bradford has already lost out on a potentially huge payday by opting not to come out for the 2009 draft, I get the feeling money was a significant factor in his decision. If he had come out early, Bradford would have likely been in the running for the first overall pick. Worst case scenario, he would have landed somewhere in the top five. But after missing most of this season, his prospectus for 2010 doesn’t look nearly as bright.

The thing Bradford has going for him is that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and as we can see on a weekly basis, there are plenty of teams in need of an upgrade at the position (Buffalo, Cleveland, Washington, Carolina, St. Louis, Seattle, Oakland). If Bradford can prove he’s fully recovered from surgery before draft time and works out well in his postseason showings, the top 10 could conceivably be a reality. But it’s still a far cry from the money he could have made last year.

Bradford is a talented kid who possesses the accuracy, maturity and leadership skills to develop into a very capable starting quarterback in the NFL. But he clearly wasn’t comfortable playing behind a suspect Oklahoma offensive line, and there are concerns that his play might have been dramatically enhanced last season because of the talent around him.

If Bradford was concerned first and foremost about financially salvaging his losses from last year and taking care of his family and himself — and there’s nothing wrong with that; I might have done the same — then he’s made the right decision. But if he was mostly concerned about being the most NFL ready quarterback prospect he could be, then this decision is one that can certainly be questioned.

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