What's Next for Sam Bradford Following Second Season-Ending ACL Injury?

Tyson LanglandNFC West Lead WriterAugust 24, 2014

David Richard/AP Images

On Saturday night, St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead believed they had dodged a bullet with franchise quarterback Sam Bradford.

He suffered an injury to his surgically repaired left knee roughly midway through the first quarter of the Rams' Week 3 preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, but initial tests did not show any ligament damage, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

However, further testing on Sunday revealed that Bradford had once again torn his ACL in that knee, per Chris Mortensen of ESPN. Clearly, the news came as a complete shock to the Rams and pundits around the league. 

With the news of Bradford’s 2014 season coming to an end before it ever truly began, one has to wonder what’s next for the fifth-year pro out of Oklahoma following his second straight season-ending ACL injury.

The most immediate course of action for Bradford will be a lengthy rehab process, while the Rams will have to decide if they want to keep No. 8 in St. Louis. 

To no one’s surprise, the answer is quite obvious: Bradford has almost assuredly played his last down as a member of the Rams. In addition to missing 31 of a possible 80 games since turning pro (including this coming season), Bradford carries a cap number of $16.58 million in 2015. 

That’s simply too much money for a player as injury-prone as Bradford. People have said that he showed progress in 2013, which he did, yet that’s no reason to honor his ridiculous cap number. 

Sam Bradford's current contract.
Sam Bradford's current contract.Over the Cap

Once and for all, the Rams need to move on from Bradford and stop counting on him to stay healthy. The former No. 1 overall pick may find a clean bill of health someday, but it doesn’t appear as if that will come with St. Louis. 

If the Rams do cut Bradford prior to the 2015 season, they will save $12,985,000. That’s a lot of money the team could use to bolster its roster elsewhere. 

That’s not to say St. Louis couldn’t redo his deal and ask him to take a huge pay cut. That’s entirely possible, considering Bradford may prefer an opportunity to rebound after two season-ending ACL tears in consecutive years. 

The only problem is that it’s rare to see a player do something along those lines. Odds are the Rams and Bradford both want a fresh start, which makes a ton of sense. St. Louis will be looking to draft its quarterback of the future, while Bradford will look to wipe his slate clean in a new city.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it’s important to examine whether Bradford even has a future in the NFL with any team. It’s easy to sit here and say, “ACL injuries are no longer as big of a deal as they were in the past.” However, every player recovers differently.

If Bradford’s surgically repaired knee doesn’t heal properly after the second operation in as many years, it’s within the realm of possibility that he will never play football again. Sure, there are certain teams that would be willing to take a chance on him, but would they ever truly feel comfortable throwing him out there for 16 games?

Bradford’s career path drastically changed on Saturday night. Instead of ascending and building upon a promising season in 2013, he will most likely be relegated to No. 2 duties with a different organization at best.

Even if he does start in the NFL again, he'll be hard-pressed to ever reach that No. 1-pick potential. Some would say he never lived up to that potential when he was healthy, and they're right. 

Take a look at journeyman quarterback Shaun Hill, for instance. Even though Hill was supposed to be Bradford’s backup, the 13th-year player has a higher completion percentage and a higher yards-per-attempt average for his career. 

That doesn’t mean Hill is a better quarterback than Bradford; it just means Bradford hasn’t lived up to the expectations bestowed upon a No. 1 pick. 

Until we know more specifics about Bradford’s recovery, we won’t be able to accurately speculate about his football future. The only thing we can do is try to pinpoint who he will be playing for next year, or if he will be playing in the league at all. 

Should Bradford consider hanging up his cleats? Should St. Louis take a wait-and-see approach with him? Should the Rams cut their losses and recoup all the money that they can? All three seem to be million-dollar questions right now. 

Unfortunately, not a single one will be answered until this time next season.