Assessing St. Louis Rams' Options at Quarterback for 2014

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Assessing St. Louis Rams' Options at Quarterback for 2014

Now that the fictional pursuit of Brett Favre has been exposed as a joke, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, it's time for the less gullible fans to ponder realistic options at quarterback for 2014 and beyond. 

At this point, it's common knowledge that St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Carolina Panthers

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Twitter, the injury will require surgery and keep Bradford sidelined for the remainder of the 2013 season. 

The fourth-year quarterback has not lived up to his status as a No. 1 overall draft pick, but he was well on his way to a career year. 

After seven games, Bradford ranks 15th in passing yards with 1,687 and is tied for fifth in touchdown passes with 14. And among quarterbacks with at least five starts this season, only five passers have coughed up fewer picks than Bradford (four). 

If Bradford held his pace, he would have finished the 2013 season with 32 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 3,856 yards—easily top-10 numbers for an NFL passer. 

Despite the fact that Bradford is generally overlooked in rankings and discussions involving the top NFL quarterbacks, it's fair to say that he's quietly been one of the more productive quarterbacks in the league.

Having said that, in a league that demands immediate results, it's hard to ignore Brdaford's 18-31-1 career record as a starter. It's a great improvement over St. Louis' 6-42 record in the three seasons prior to Bradford's arrival, but the record still leaves a lot to be desired. 

Also, Bradford's list of career injuries is beginning to grow. 

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A shoulder injury ended his career at Oklahoma and nearly killed his draft stock. In 2011, he missed six games with an ankle injury

Bradford will miss nine starts this season, which will eventually total out to 15 missed starts in the last 48 games. 

Eventually, Bradford is going to be pegged with the dreaded "injury prone" label. And honestly, it's hard to argue against that at this point. 

So where do the St. Louis Rams stand with Bradford? 

Are they truly behind him 100 percent in 2014? Or, will the Rams explore other options this offseason?

No one knows. The team will remain mute on the issue for the sake of the team—no need to stir the pot in the middle of the season. But surely, general manager Les Snead is carefully reviewing his options.

Currently, there are three ideal options to pursue following the season. Here are the three options, and the positives and negatives with each scenario:

Option 1: Go All In With Sam

With this option, the Rams stick with Bradford as the undisputed starter. They may pursue a new backup with a mid- to late-round draft pick, or sign a low-level free agent, but Bradford enters training camp with zero competition. 

As of now, we have to assume this is St. Louis' current path, especially since Fisher publicly stated that Bradford will be the Rams' quarterback in 2014. 

Obviously, the team is not going to comment on future offseason plans in the middle of the season, so the statement is meaningless, but here's what we can expect if the Rams stick with Sam...

Positives

  • Bradford posted top-10 numbers after seven games in 2013. In his last 16 games, Bradford has amassed 3,797 yards and 28 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions. He is getting more and more productive each year. 
  • The Rams have two first-round draft picks in 2014. Bailing on Sam would force the Rams to use at least one of those picks on a new quarterback. If the Rams remain committed to Bradford, they are free to use those two picks to address other areas of need. 
  • Bradford is familiar with the receivers and the playbook. Remaining loyal to Bradford would allow the Rams to run an advanced version of the offense. Drafting a rookie would reset the building process and force the offense to stick with the basics in 2014. 

Negatives

  • Bradford now has three season-ending injuries in his last five seasons, dating back to college. Injuries are becoming a trend with Bradford. If the Rams fail to address the quarterback position in the offseason, the team could be in the same boat a year from now. 
  • If the Rams decide to move on, cutting Bradford could save $10.5 million in cap space. That money can be used to address other areas of need. This money is unavailable if they stick with Bradford. 

 

Option 2: Stick With Sam, But Invest in A High-Quality Backup 

This scenario has Bradford returning as the starter in 2014. He gets another shot at redemption, but the Rams come up with a backup plan more appealing than Kellen Clemens. 

With this option, the Rams would use a second- or third-round draft pick on a No. 2 quarterback, such as A.J. McCarron of Alabama, Zach Mettenberger of LSU, or even Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M (assuming his poor measurables lower his stock). 

Or, we could see the Rams pursue this option by signing a free agent quarterback with a relatively successful history, such as Michael Vick or Josh Freeman. 

Bradford keeps his job, but his backup is no slouch. 

Positives

  • The 2014 draft has some exciting candidates that could realistically fall to Round 2, such as Manziel. The 2014 draft is a prime opportunity to secure a promising talent without sacrificing a first-round pick. 
  • If Bradford struggles or is injured once again, this scenario gives the Rams a real fallback plan that can keep the season alive. This plan at least gives the team a fighting chance at survival in a worst case scenario. 
  • Even if Bradford recovers and plays like a top-notch quarterback in 2014, this scenario gives the Rams an opportunity to groom a highly touted youngster and create some trade bait. If Bradford is the man, St. Louis can trade its backup several years down the road. The Rams would have their very own Kirk Cousins. 

Negatives

  • The Rams will frequently be pressured to unnecessarily bench Bradford at the first sign of trouble. This is also known as "Tebow Syndrome."
  • Quarterbacks selected in the second and third round rarely pan out. The Rams are more likely to find a Jimmy Clausen or a Colt McCoy rather than a Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick.
  • The Rams would miss out on acquiring the top quarterback of the draft class. If the Rams get cold feet and wait until the second day to draft a quarterback, they could find themselves in a situation similar to the Carolina Panthers, who drafted Clausen in Round 2 just to use a No. 1 overall pick on Cam Newton a year later. 

/Getty Images

Option 3: Start Over at Quarterback, Select Top Passer of the 2014 Draft Class

This option seems rather unlikely at this point, but there's no denying that this is at least a possibility. 

In this scenario, the Rams show no faith in Bradford's ability to bounce back. The team doubts he can remain healthy and productive in the long run.

Since there are no top-notch quarterbacks available in free agency, the Rams will have to secure the top-rated quarterback of the 2014 draft, most likely Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville. 

The Rams will have two first-round picks to get the job done. If necessary, they can trade both picks to move up and get their guy. 

Bradford will either be cut to save salary cap space, or, he'll remain with the team and compete for the starting job. Even if Bradford enters the season as the starter, he's destined to be demoted to backup at some point. 

Positives

  • New franchise quarterbacks are always exciting; adding the top quarterback of the 2014 class will energize the fans and create positive buzz. Fans are much more attracted to new and shiny rather than old and familiar. 
  • This allows the Rams to either cut Bradford to create cap space, or trade him to another team for draft picks or players. 
  • With a new, highly touted passer under center, there's always a chance he'll succeed in areas where Bradford fell short. 

Negatives

  • The Rams offense will have to hit the reset button and wait for the rookie to catch up. 
  • Bradford is a veteran who has posted solid numbers since 2012. It's a bit risky to assume a first-round rookie can surpass Bradford's accomplishments. After all, there are plenty of first-round quarterbacks who have not come close to Bradford's level of production (Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder).
  • Bradford is far from being the team's biggest concern. Drafting a quarterback in the first round limits the team's ability to address more desperate positions, such as safety, running back and the offensive line. 
  • There are solid quarterbacks in the upcoming class, but no prospect clearly stands out. There's no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III to speak of. 
  • If Bradford succeeds elsewhere and the new quarterback is mediocre, it will make the entire organization look bad, much like San Diego letting Drew Brees leave in free agency. 

 

Conclusion

There's no clear answer to St. Louis' quarterback situation and the organization will not broadcast its thoughts anytime soon. 

Bradford is improving each year and gives the Rams a decent shot at winning when he's under center, but his injuries and inconsistency cannot be totally ignored. 

Bradford has done enough in this league to deserve another shot, but the Rams will not allow their current situation to repeat itself a year from now.

The team will explore options at quarterback and do what is best for the team. That could mean finding a new backup, or even a new starter. We won't know until next season. 

If I have to take a guess, I'd say Option 2 makes the most sense. But no matter what happens, Bradford is not done. He has a lot of football left to play, and it's possible that the best is still to come. 

 

Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer's profile or by following him on Twitter.

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