Updates From Tuesday, Feb. 18
According to Ed Werder of ESPN, the Rams are still open to extending Bradford's contract:
Rams GM Les Snead told me this on QB Sam Bradford future: "We have been _ and still are _ open to extending Sam."— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) February 18, 2014
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford hasn't quite lived up to the hype since being selected No. 1 overall in the 2010 NFL draft. Considering the massive investment the franchise made in him and the minimal returns to date, Bradford's future with the organization may be in jeopardy.
Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com released a league-wide report on Monday concerning the potential salary-cap casualties of the 2014 offseason and stated that the Rams have "no intention" of extending Bradford:
With $27M owed to him over the next two years, the Rams have absolutely no intention of extending QB Sam Bradford—contrary to a midseason NFL report—but must decide if they still want him around since he's already received all of his guaranteed money.
Yet later in the evening La Canfora painted a much different picture of how the Rams view Bradford's future with the Rams:
A source says the Rams are open to an extension for QB Sam Bradford, who is due $27M over the next two years. A longer deal would still be a surprise to many, because adding guaranteed money beyond the current deal would make it cumbersome for the team to part with Bradford.
Yes, Bradford was the last QB to get such an exorbitant payday before the league restructured rookie contracts, which alleviates some of the damage of misfiring on a quarterback or other player in the first round of the NFL draft. Now that his guaranteed money—all $50 million of it (h/t Spotrac.com)—has been paid off, St. Louis could release him to save cap room.
BlackSportsOnline.com founder Robert Littal believes the Rams should sever their ties with Bradford, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016 under his current deal:
Bradford still owed like $27 million, but it isn't guaranteed, might as well cut your losses, open up cap space start fresh— Robert Littal (@BlkSportsOnline) February 17, 2014
Although he was playing well in 2013 before tearing his ACL in his seventh game of the season (90.9 passer rating, 14 passing touchdowns to just four interceptions), Bradford hasn't consistently shown the capability to be the face of the Rams' franchise. At age 26, there is still time for Bradford to prove himself, but it seems St. Louis' patience is wearing thin.
Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler weighed in on the situation, implying that Bradford has to perform immediately:
Despite the major knee injury, Bradford expressed confidence that he'll be ready for training camp, per a Jan. 17 report by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jim Thomas:
Barring any major setbacks, I feel very confident for camp. From everything that [athletic trainer Reggie Scott]'s told me, he feels like that's an attainable goal. He feels really good with where we're at right now, and the progress that we've made in these first eight weeks. I think as long as we continue on this track, I'm confident that will be a reasonable thing.
What should the Rams do with Sam Bradford?
Releasing a player of Bradford's potential before he's had a strong enough supporting cast to play at an elite level would be a risk. The team has been patient with him all this time with bad offensive lines, underwhelming receiving targets and new systems.
Considering the Rams have the Nos. 2 and 13 overall selections in the upcoming draft, offensive improvements can be had. If the Rams have a strong 2014 draft, perhaps Bradford will play at a higher level than ever before.
Kellen Clemens served as a decent fill-in for Bradford this past season, but he's not the long-term answer.
In the increasingly tough NFC West division, there is a clear sense of urgency within the Rams organization to build a competitive team despite the inherent youth on the roster. Whether it's Bradford, a top 2015 draft prospect or someone else, though, St. Louis won't be a viable contender until its quarterback situation is resolved.