Rams 101 contributor David Schlager thinks it's time for St. Louis to look in another direction at quarterback.
When golden chances fall in your lap, you've got to take them. As often as we hear it, you cannot overemphasize it.
The NFL is a quarterback league.
Teams that have a great quarterback generally have success. Teams like the Raiders and Browns have tried and tried, but what the St. Louis Rams have is a gold mine. The early success of a quarterback is often predicated on the team around him. With the extra pick from the Washington Redskins (which is currently slotted to be second overall) the Rams have an opportunity to change the course of the franchise.
After a promising rookie year, the Sam Bradford era has fallen a bit short. Whether or not the blame goes to Bradford or the team around him is a different argument.
Sam Bradford was having the best season in his four-year career in St. Louis. Until an ACL tear in Week 7, Bradford had elite numbers: 14 touchdowns, just four interceptions and a career high in completion percentage.
Despite his start this season, after four years in St. Louis, it's still not clear if Bradford is "the man." The Rams have not had a winning season with Bradford, who has totaled a record of 18-30-1. The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner has had his share of blame, perhaps more than his fair share, but with finances and the results the way they are, Bradford could be out.
It's Bradford's contract, the last of the unproven jackpot contracts, that's more of a cause for concern than his play. With two more years at just over $34 million ($17.6 million due in 2014 and $16.5 million in 2015) Bradford needs to play like a perennial pro-bowler, not a player that is continuing to improve and has yet to make his way in the league.
Most of the $50 million of guaranteed money has already been paid, and just $7 million remains in potential dead money. If Rams management were to depart with Bradford, it would cost $7 million, and would save $27 million in base salary. All of that money in base salary that the Rams are due to pay Bradford over the next two years is what the team would pay a new rookie quarterback over the next five years.
General Manager Les Snead has a unique opportunity to hand pick a high-level rookie quarterback and surround him with a team that could finish .500 with Kellen Clemens at the helm. In fact, it's been the play of Kellen Clemens that has made Bradford seem more expendable. Clemens signed a one-year deal for $870,000. While there are some losses that Rams fans say would have been wins with Bradford, Clemens has proven his worth. A scenario of Clemens (who hasn’t earned a mid-level contract with another team) a high-caliber prospect in what looks to be a good quarterback draft, and extra cap room to fill another need sounds promising.
Months of analysis and anticipation are ahead to predict which signal-callers belong and which do not. Their skills will be hyper-analyzed and any weaknesses will be highlighted, but if there remains an outstanding quarterback prospect, the Rams should more than consider selecting him.
Whether it is Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Derek Carr (Fresno State) or any other thrower, the Rams have a rare opportunity. As teams like Seattle, Indianapolis and Cincinnati have shown, the right quarterback added to an already solid surrounding cast can put a team over the top.
Some fans wanted to wash their hands with Bradford during the 2012 NFL Draft and select a high-end prospect. With two more years of trial and error, a torn ACL and marginal results, the answer may be clearer than you think.