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St. Louis Rams Should Stay Patient, Wait on Nick Foles Extension

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJune 24, 2015

St. Louis Rams quarterback Nick Foles (5) participates in an NFL football organized team activity, Thursday, June 11, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Michael Thomas/Associated Press

NFL general managers who don't have a franchise quarterback in their stable are constantly on a quest to find one. And so when they come across a pivot who has anything resembling a legitimate shot at becoming a franchise leader, they're usually eager to lock them up and keep them away from quarterback-starved predators in competing cities. 

That might explain why the St. Louis Rams are actively trying to extend Nick Foles' deal before he completes the final year of his rookie contract. 

“We’ve had some discussions,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said last week, per Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think what Nick has done early in his career, he’s proven that he can get the job done on the field.

“With the numbers that he put at the end with Andy (Reid)...it was very impressive. He’s carried things on here, and so we’re going to continue to talk and see if we can get something that’s good for both sides.”

As Thomas points out, it was only a year ago at this time when the Rams were talking about extending quarterback Sam Bradford's deal. Bradford is now a member of the Eagles after a March trade involving Foles and a few draft picks. That indicates nothing's set in stone here, but it should also serve as a cautionary tale for Fisher, general manager Les Snead and executive vice president of football operations Kevin Demoff.

Per NFL Media's Dan Hanzus, Ian Rapoport reports that "the Rams would like to avoid Foles playing out the final year of his deal, which they believe would put them in a financially difficult position if Foles’ performance increases his market value."

And according to Rapoport, the Rams would also prefer to avoid using the franchise tag on Foles next offseason.

But if we're weighing risk and reward here, a team that, according to OvertheCap.com, is projected to have more than $40 million in salary-cap space next spring (Thomas believes it'll have closer to $60 million) has little reason to take a long-term risk on a quarterback who has yet to prove he can consistently serve as a reliable starter. 

Most projected salary cap space for 2016
TeamSpace
1. Raiders$67,625,238
2. Buccaneers$57,782,167
3. Giants$54,892,306
4. Chiefs$49,425,974
5. Bengals$46,674,969
6. Rams$43,206,220
7. Chargers$42,135,203
8. Jaguars$41,001,106
OvertheCap.com

Facts about Nick Foles: 

— As an afterthought third-round pick in 2012, he was never supposed to amount to much in this league. Did that all change when he put together a record-breaking 2013 campaign? Yes, but Foles has still posted a sub-85.0 passer rating in two of his three seasons.

— It's possible his 2013 season was a major aberration. Check out his numbers from 2012 and 2014: 

Nick Foles: Was 2013 an anomaly?
Category2013 season2012/2014
Record8-27-8
Comp. %64.060.2
TD-INT27-219-15
YPA9.16.7
Rating119.280.4
Pro Football Reference

— And he still hasn't been able to stay healthy. In fact, 65 percent of Foles' career passes came in 2012 and 2014, because even in 2013 the sample size was somewhat limited by injuries as well as the fact he couldn't beat out Michael Vick in training camp.

Foles has started just 24 NFL games, which is the equivalent of a season-and-a-half. Is that really a large enough body of work to merit a long-term extension for a third-round pick with an inflated career passer rating (94.2) that is just a few points above the identical ratings possessed by Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick (90.6)?  

Nick Foles: Injury history
SeasonInjuryTime missed
2012Broken hand1 game
2013GroinLimited
2013Concussion1 game
2014Fractured clavicle8 games
KFFL

Foles doesn't necessarily have to put together another season like 2013, in which he posted a record touchdown-to-interception ratio and the third-highest passer rating of all time while leading the league in yards per attempt. But maybe he should have to start more than 10 regular-season games for the first time in his career before earning long-term security. Thus far, we've already seen him limited or sidelined by a broken hand, a balky groin, a concussion and a fractured clavicle. 

The Rams were witnesses as injuries derailed Bradford's career. They should know better. 

This franchise now has a chance to make Foles prove he can be the franchise quarterback. In the meantime, they'll be on the hook for just $1.5 million in 2015. What they're saving this year can help make up for the premium he might demand after a strong fourth season, and even if he does raise his stock in 2015 the Rams have plenty of cash in the coffers to reward him with a raise or apply the franchise tag for approximately $20 million. 

The alternative is risking making the same mistake they almost made with Bradford a year ago. But it makes little sense to take that chance considering the injury and production concerns attached to Foles. 

This might also be somewhat psychological. The Rams want to believe Foles is their next star under center, and they want Foles to believe it too. In order to add him to the roster, they parted with the top pick of the 2010 draft—the former face of the franchise. 

So if the Rams want to indicate to Foles, the rest of the organization and a fanbase that fears relocation to Los Angeles that they believe they've found their guy, the best way to declare that is to hold a press conference featuring Snead, Fisher and a newly signed Foles, all sporting ear-to-ear smiles. 

But there's a decent chance Foles will never recapture the magic that got him to the Pro Bowl with the Eagles in 2013. And if indeed that never happens but the Rams spend big bucks on him before he plays his first game in St. Louis, a franchise that hasn't experienced a winning season in a decade will only drift further out of contention. 

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012.

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