It takes some serious courage for an organization to give up on a former No. 1 overall draft pick and just move on without said player. When that former top selection was expected to become a franchise quarterback, however, the odds of the team turning the page decrease even more.
That’s the current dilemma set to face the St. Louis Rams this upcoming offseason, but this situation is even more tenuous than most. Sam Bradford’s torn ACL back in Week 7 of this season really derailed the team’s plans for truly evaluating the signal caller’s worth to the franchise and considering signing him to a long-term extension that is more salary cap friendly. The elephant in the room remains the absolutely gargantuan cap numbers that Bradford is poised to carry in the next two years.
With $17.6 million due in 2014 and $16.5 million in 2015, the Rams are already in dire straits in terms of salary cap constraints with many veterans poised to be facing the chopping block this offseason. The shackles placed on the team with Bradford’s deal actually came via the previous collective bargaining agreement (CBA) when the top overall pick just continued to carry an escalating price tag. Under the new CBA this season with the potential of the top pick via the Washington Redskins falling into their lap courtesy of the Robert Griffin III trade, however, the Rams may be forced to make a tough choice at quarterback.
Though Bradford was showing some progress in his fourth season and on pace for career-highs in completion percentage (60.7), touchdowns (14), and career-low in interceptions (4) when extrapolated over a full 16-game schedule, it’s still difficult to bank on him really making the jump to elite to justify his massive contract. Even a reworked deal via an extension to free up some cap space would carry a huge financial burden for a player that carries so much uncertainty already heading into his fifth NFL season.
What really makes this discussion pertinent is the fact that the $14 and $13 million in base salary that the Rams are due to pay Bradford over the next two years is what the team would pay a rookie quarterback selected in the early portion of round one over the first five years of his contract in total. That puts a perspective on the Bradford contract that really makes it an albatross of sorts for the franchise looking ahead.
Backup Kellen Clemens has been able to be relatively successful with the Rams since Bradford went down with an injury as well. His numbers aren’t all that impressive, but the bottom line number of wins and losses with Bradford going 3-4 in seven starts and Clemens producing the exact same 3-4 record is a huge indictment of the lack of disparity between the two. The only real difference is the fact that Clemens is making just $840,000 this season whereas Bradford took home $12.6 million.
It might seem crazy to think that the Rams would move on from Bradford this offseason, but one has to remember the current general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher didn’t draft him. They inherited the former Oklahoma Sooner from the previous regime, and that certainly raises the likelihood of them bringing in their own guy regardless of how complimentary they were toward Bradford in the past.