Sam Bradford was on his way to smashing career bests across the board statistically in 2013, so perhaps if he had stayed healthy the Rams would have left the debate about his future for later.
But Bradford blew out his knee in Week 7, ending his season. Oh, and more to the point, the Rams own two first-round picks (including No. 2 overall) in a draft with several intriguing QBs and Bradford set to cost more than $17 million against the '14 cap. So what's a team to do?
One option potentially on the table is a contract extension to alleviate some of that cap hit. Bradford has two years and $27 million remaining on his current deal. CBSSports' Jason La Canfora says that the Rams "are open" to adding years to Bradford's contract in exchange for reducing the massive cost for 2014. (La Canfora concedes, though, that a longer deal would "surprise" many.) Such a move likely would be similar to the reworked deal Baltimore and Terrell Suggs agreed upon Monday, which runs through 2018 -- Suggs reduced his 2014 cost by $4 million in exchange for $16 million in guaranteed money over the next couple of seasons.
Simply cutting Bradford would leave $7.2 million in dead money on the Rams' books spread over the next two seasons, but it would save them more than $10.4 million this season.
To boil this all down to its simplest form: Is it better to keep Bradford and try to add some more talent around him with the extra first-round pick; or to move on from Bradford, replace him with one of the draft's top QBs and put that extra spending money toward bulking up the roster elsewhere?
Bradford's performance last season could push the Rams toward door No. 1. In six-plus games prior to his injury, Bradford threw 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions, with a 60.7 completion percentage and 90.9 QB rating. That final number was the 11th-best in the league last season, just behind San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and ahead of Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and others.
Of course, Kaepernick's performance -- not to mention that of recent Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson -- might help make the argument against keeping Bradford. Both the 49ers and Seahawks have been able to stockpile talent throughout the roster in part because of the bargain-basement prices their quarterbacks have been carrying. Though those salaries will skyrocket in the near future, the benefit of turning down that path is obvious. The Bradford conundrum is the main reason the Rams are such an unknown variable in the 2014 draft. They could use the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback, receiver, offensive tackle or Jadeveon Clowney, plus are in prime position to trade down should they decide to stick it out with Bradford.