The St. Louis Rams have remained active in their pursuit of adding veteran players at key positions. Over the course of the last week, they upgraded their secondary, bolstered their defensive line rotation and added one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL.
According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Rams agreed to terms with former Detroit Lions quarterback Shaun Hill. Hill’s deal spans one year and is worth $1.75 million. However, he has the opportunity to make $2.25 million if he meets the escalators in the contract.
No matter what the number ends up being, the Rams signed Hill at a bargain-bin price. The 34-year-old signal-caller has been a model of consistency since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2002.
In 34 career games, Hill has won 13 games as a starter, thrown 954 passes, compiled a quarterback rating of 85.9 and posted a touchdown-to-interception ratio of nearly 2-to-1 (41 touchdowns, 23 interceptions).
By no means is Hill a strong-armed thrower, but he is accurate and can effectively manage an offense. Here’s what Matt Miller of Bleacher Report had to say about the veteran quarterback when he evaluated his skill set at the end of the 2012 season for B/R NFL 1000:
A quality No. 2 quarterback, Hill has the skill set to be a plus player when thrown into a starting situation due to injury. With his accuracy and mobility, Hill could be viewed as a potential stopgap solution for a young quarterback if needed.
Based on Miller’s scouting report, Hill is the perfect fit for the Rams and is more than just a backup quarterback.
Sam Bradford has missed 15 games in four seasons due to injury and is coming off a gruesome knee injury that forced him to miss nine games in 2013. This, in turn, means Hill could be thrust into action if Bradford falls victim to the injury bug again.
Even though the Rams are hoping that’s not the case, general manager Les Snead isn’t naive. He has been around the block a few times and knows how crucial it is to have a quality No. 2 quarterback.
The Rams don’t want a repeat performance from last year. They want a solid backup who can win games and help the offensive thrive.
Yes, Kellen Clemens finished the 2013 season with a 4-5 record as a starter, but the offensive never thrived under his watch. In 10 games, Clemens averaged 167.2 yards passing, recorded three multi-interception games and amassed a quarterback rating of 78.8.
Furthermore, the analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Clemens out as the 25th-best quarterback in the NFL with a minus-four grade. For the sake of comparison, he looked worse on tape than fellow backup quarterbacks like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel and Jason Campbell.
When a quarterback forces the offense to become one-dimensional, it’s time to move on. That’s what happened with Clemens. After Bradford went down with a torn ACL, the Rams relied on their running game to put W's in the win column. That won’t be the case with Hill.
Despite his sidearm throwing motion, Hill throws with good zip and can push the ball deep down the field. The latter is important because the Rams have a few deep threats on their roster.
Per PFF, Tavon Austin and Chris Givens combined for 25 targets on passes of 20 yards or more downfield. With the late-season emergence of Stedman Bailey, one should expect St. Louis’ wide receiving corps to garner even more downfield targets in 2014.
Yet, like any other aging player in the league, Hill won’t be around forever. At some point, the Rams have to add a young quarterback who is capable of growing into a top backup role behind Bradford. Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com agrees:
For what it's worth, I believe the Rams still will look to add a quarterback in the draft, probably sometime in the middle rounds. That's been the plan all along and now Hill can help bring whoever that draft pick is along.
Wagoner’s right: Hill can help bring that draft pick along.
In Detroit, one of Hill’s most underrated traits was his leadership skills. He was influential in helping Matthew Stafford because he was a good mentor. He was also a big help for the team's young running backs and wide receivers.
When Hill was the Lions’ 2011 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, the organization had nothing but good things to say about his capabilities as a leader, via DetroitLions.com:
Shaun Hill is a leader and team player in every sense of the word. If the Lions had a “Good Guy of the Year” Award, Shaun would win that also. It certainly takes a special type of person and athlete to be a franchise’s back-up quarterback. The Lions have that person in Shaun Hill.
Now that the Rams have him, there’s only one question that remains: Who will be Hill’s understudy in 2014? Will it be Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Brett Smith or Jimmy Garoppolo?
With less than 50 days until the draft, the Rams have been linked to one quarterback so far. According to Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, Carr has five private workouts scheduled. Of the five teams interested in working him out privately, the Rams are one of them.
On the surface, Carr is an ideal fit. He’s a charismatic leader, can make every throw in the book, flashes tremendous deep accuracy and throws the ball with excellent velocity.
The Rams' interest in Carr may or may not be real. At this point in time, we don’t know. The only things we do know are as follows: Bradford will be the starter in 2014, and Hill will be more than just a backup.
Hill will be a mentor to Bradford, a leader in the locker room and a teacher behind closed doors.