|The Rams have invested $30M in Bradford, who has 26 games under his belt. (Getty Images)|
ST. LOUIS -- Please, stop the madness now. Let's not spend the next four months debating whether the St. Louis Rams should select a quarterback with their high pick in the 2012 draft and trade Sam Bradford.
These rumblings were being heard over the past several weeks, but gained traction when Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden said recently if a new coach was hired by the Rams they would have to give serious consideration to finding a better quarterback than Bradford. Gruden, of course, specifically mentioned Stanford's Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III of Baylor.
It's hard to tell whether Gruden really believed what he was saying or if he was tweaking fellow analyst Ron Jaworski, who is high on Bradford. Following Gruden's comment, Jaworski lauded Bradford again, and Gruden had that sly, Chucky grin on his face.
Since Gruden's comment, the "trade Bradford" bandwagon has grown. The salary cap ramifications are one major impediment to a deal, but the idea makes no sense on a basic talent evaluation level.
While Luck, and even Griffin, are the flavors of the month, if all three were in the draft at the same time, Bradford could very well be rated as the best of the bunch. At the least, it would be a good debate.
So, believing that the evaluation would be very close, why trade a quarterback who already has 26 games under his belt, has shown his ability and in whom you have already invested $30 million?
As for the salary cap, a Bradford trade on or before June 1 would mean a $14.4 million dead-money cap charge for the Rams. If he was traded after June 1, the hit would be $3.6 million in 2012 and $10.8 million in 2013.
On the roster in 2012, Bradford counts $15.595 million against the cap and his base salary is $12 million guaranteed. The final three years of his contract are worth a total of $36 million with $8 million of his $9 million 2013 salary guaranteed.
While the $14.4 million hit isn't that much different than his cap charge on the roster, that would still be dead money for a player no longer on the team.
It also can be argued the Rams would have less leverage trying to trade Bradford because of those high salaries.
However, they would likely have significantly more leverage as the draft approaches to make a deal as teams start falling in love with the incoming class and the lower salaries they will command compared to Bradford.
The new, hard rookie pool resulted in quarterback Cam Newton, this year's first overall pick, receiving a four-year contract worth a shade over $22 million. Newton's signing bonus was $14.5 million and his base salaries are $375,000; $1.376 million; $2.377 million and $3.378 million. There is an option for the fifth year that has to be exercised after the end of the third year, but most high picks that prove worthy will likely sign contract extensions before they ever get to that fifth year.
With the overall salary cap in 2012 expected to be very close to the 2011 total of $120.375 million, the rookie contracts will also be very similar to 2011.
Assuming Griffin enters the draft, the Rams should be in an excellent spot to build around Bradford with extra choices, even if they wind up with the second pick in the first round.
If the Rams lose to the 49ers on Sunday, they can't pick any lower than second. The scenarios:
• Rams lose, Colts lose to Jacksonville: Colts pick first, Rams second.
• Rams lose, Colts win: Rams pick first, Colts second.
If the Rams win, it doesn't matter what the Colts do. Win or lose, Indianapolis would pick first. However, the Rams would pick third if they win and the Vikings lose to the Bears, which would give Minnesota the second selection.
This assumes the Rams don't make up a five-game differential in strength-of-schedule percentage with the Vikings, which is unlikely.
If the Rams pick second, either the Colts will select Luck or trade the pick to a team that wants him. The Rams would still be in position to swing a deal with a team that wants Griffin, if he is rated that high and there are no other highly-rated quarterbacks. Currently, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay have four wins, while Miami and Washington have five. It's conceivable the Browns, Dolphins and Redskins would be in the market for a quarterback.
Obviously, the best result would be for the Rams to have the first pick. That could lead to a double trade down. Trade with Indianapolis, if they want Luck, and do the best deal you can for moving down just one spot. Then, deal the second pick in what would hopefully be a seller's market to multiple teams that desire Griffin.
That should provide a collection of picks this year and in future years that will fill several of the holes on the roster and improve the offense around Bradford. Whatever the package, it's probable that it would be more than the Rams would acquire for Bradford.
So, end the debate. Please.