Could the Rams' Ownership Turmoil Re-Write the Script of the 2010 Draft?

David LeonCorrespondent IApril 13, 2010

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 1:  Stanley Kroenke of the Colorado Avalanche poses for a portrait on September 1, 2002 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado .  (Getty Images/NHLI)
Getty Images/Getty Images

People sometimes forget the Rams are a small market team, with cash-flow problems, in the middle of a franchise sale, the middle of the Great Recession.  There are also persistent rumors that they may be moving to a facility in Industry California, but we won't touch on this touchy subject.  We should think about this before we predict their choice in the 2010 draft.

Rumor has it that Tom Condon, Sam Bradford's agent, may well ask for a 20 percent premium over the contract signed by Matt Stafford just one year ago.  Under Condon's guidance, Stafford signed a record breaking $72 million contract, with $41.7 million guaranteed.  A simple 20 percent increase would put Sam Bradford at $86.4 million with $50 million guaranteed over six years.  The value could be reduced to $43.2 million with $25 million guaranteed by shortening the term to three years, but many teams do not favor a shorter contract for high first round picks.

In the past 24 hours, Stan Kroenke announced his intention to exercise his contractual right of first refusal to purchase the remaining 60 percent of Ram stock he does not already own.  Kroenke has owned 40 percent of the Rams since 1993.  

Shahid Khan, the presumptive buyer of the Rams, is expected to contest Kroenke's purchase decision on the basis of the cross-ownership ban in the league bylaws.  Kroenke owns both the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche.  Since these are other pro-franchises in an NFL city, Kroenke would be barred from purchasing majority ownership in any NFL franchise.  Kroenke has indicated that he does not intend to divest himself of his other franchises.

Who will win this jump ball?  No one knows.  The league may change the rules for Kroenke, but Khan will certainly protest if this happens.  The league may not bend for Kroenke, but Kroenke will certainly protest if this happens.  I believe we will see the first scenario, not the second.  This could be a protracted battle.  One thing is certain:  The Rams will not have a clear owner on April 22, 2010, the day of the draft.

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Given no clear-cut owner, there is no clear-cut boss who writes the checks, and there is no clear cut financial direction.  Billy Devaney and Spagnuolo will be operating with impunity on April 22nd, but only for a time.  If you are Billy Devaney, do you do a contract with a $86.4 million commitment with $50m guaranteed? Do you play it conservative financially?  What do you do?

Is it even possible to be conservative financially given the No. 1 absolute pick in the draft, a pick mythically referred to as the money pit?   Some say the answer is yes.  Many think that Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy can be signed for less money.  Others believe that a deal with Cleveland or Seattle might be worked out on Draft day.

Suppose for one moment that the Rams select Ndamukong Suh on draft day, and they do so for financial reasons.  What happens then?  Certainly, Sam Bradford begins to slide down the board.  The first logical stopping point would be pick No. 6, the Seattle Seahawks.  This would also bump Jimmy Clausen's stock down.  In the meanwhile, players the Seahawks were expected to select, such as Trent Williams, Bryan Bulaga, and C.J. Spiller would also cascade down the board.  There would be an interest series of domino effects.