One would think a squad that holds the title as the NFL’s youngest roster would be full of cheap rookie deals that are cap friendly, but unfortunately some of the St. Louis Rams’ youth stems from the pre-rookie salary cap collective bargaining agreement (CBA) when salaries for those selected in the top 10 just continued to escalate before guys ever played a down in the league. Some of those deals (cough, Sam Bradford, cough) still remain a crippling fixture under the current salary cap constraints and really put a damper on the team’s outlook.
It’s ridiculous to think that the Rams already have $123.6 million committed to a 2014 cap that is expected to be somewhere around $126.3 million. Good luck with that spare $3.7 million in free agency, guys. Don’t spend it all in one place.
Obviously that amount won’t even allow them to address any of their impending free agents or their incoming rookie class – which is likely to again feature two first rounders – this offseason.
So the place to start trimming is with the albatross that is Bradford’s contract. This offseason is the first time the team actually has a legitimate shot at getting out from under the Wylie Coyote style anvil without seriously crippling their cap situation even further. The penalty for flat out cutting Bradford would be just $7.2 million of dead money against the cap next season. When compared to his bloated $17.6 million total on the books it equates to a savings of $10.4 million by moving on at quarterback.
While Bradford has shown some marginal growth during the course of his four years with the team, it would be nearly impossible to find anyone who still believes he can be a franchise quarterback. Though he is efficient, a great leader, and has shown flashes of being a top 10 signal caller, being paid the way he is suggests something far beyond that.
It’s hard to keep banging on Bradford because he seems like a decent enough dude, but it’s just as difficult to sit passively by and say the Rams should fork over more than 13 percent of their total cap space in 2014 for someone who’s just a nice guy. That just isn’t a sound business practice, and general manager Les Snead doesn’t seem like someone willing to compromise the bottom line due to a friendship.
Head coach Jeff Fisher proclaimed Bradford to be a franchise quarterback when he took the gig back in January of 2012, but a lot can happen in nearly two years’ time. This team has shown immense progress, sure, but it’s arguable that the exact same progress they showed under Bradford – with a 3-4 record to the time of his season-ending ACL injury – is being shown by a quarterback making $840,000 this season in Kellen Clemens who also has a 3-4 record as a starter.
Though the quarterback gets the headlines and is an important part of the equation, the guys around him have to do their jobs for the team to pile up wins. Bradford’s scheduled cap hit of $17.6 million is set to be above guys like Tom Brady ($14.8 million), Philip Rivers ($16.67 million), and (gasp) Peyton Manning ($17.5 million). That’s just asinine for a quarterback with a career record of 18-30-1 and a touchdown to interception ratio of 59 to 38.