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What Will The Rams Do Without Sam Bradford?

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Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images.


What Will The Rams Do Without Bradford?

By now, you’ve probably heard that Sam Bradford suffered a torn ACL in his left knee – the same one that ended his 2013 campaign prematurely – when LT Jake Long let Armont Bryant slip by him during the Rams’ preseason game against the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 23.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap3000000382949/Rams-vs-Browns-preseason-highlights

It’s yet another devastating injury in what has been several years of devastating injuries for the Rams, who also lost starting CB Trumaine Johnson for at least six weeks due to a sprained MCL in the same game. Bradford will be out for the entirety of the 2014 season, and that leaves the Rams with several questions:

Who will be playing quarterback for the Rams this season?

They’ll probably go with Shaun Hill, who looked awful against the Browns. Third-string QB Austin Davis looked decent in the second half, but of course his playing time came against the Browns’ second string defense. Free agency doesn’t appear to offer anything much better, as Josh Freeman, Kyle Orton, and Kevin Kolb are the most noteworthy still-unsigned quarterbacks.  I could see the Rams signing Orton – who threw for nearly 4,000 yards in 2009 – but nobody should be deluding themselves that he can be even 75 percent of what a healthy Sam Bradford could offer.

Another option would be to trade for someone else’s backup. Redskins second-stringer Kirk Cousins comes to mind – but at what cost? Washington spent a fourth round pick on him in 2012, and it would probably require a second or two thirds to coax him away, especially given Robert Griffin III’s injury history. They could try to reunite Mark Sanchez with OC Brian Schottenheimer, but that didn’t really work the first time around and Eagles Coach Chip Kelly went on record saying it would need to be “a pretty good deal.”

Elsewhere around the league are Matt Hasselbeck in Indianapolis, Michael Vick with the Jets, and Terrelle Pryor with Seattle. Pryor could end up being cut, but I doubt the other two teams will want to part with their backups without being overwhelmed in a trade. It doesn’t really mesh with what GM Les Snead has in mind for the Rams, so I don’t think it’s likely that St. Louis will try to find a solution via trade.

How can they perform without Bradford?

St. Louis did surprisingly decent under Kellen Clemens last year, going 4-5 over the last 9 games. The defense will probably carry the team to a couple of wins, but I can’t see the rams winning more than five or six games total under Shaun Hill, and that’s probably on the optimistic side. The rest of the offense simply isn’t good enough, particularly if Long looks as bad as he did against the Browns.

Who will the Rams long term solution be?

Unfortunately these days, being a Rams fan means thinking about next year’s draft in August. Given 4-6 wins this season, St. Louis should be in line to draft one of the top QBs in next year’s draft. I’m not a college scout, but the consensus seems to be that Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston have an early lead on the rest of the pack for 2015. Both are runners, which doesn’t really fit what the Rams have wanted in the past 20 or so years, and they opted to stick with Bradford instead of selecting Griffin back in 2012. Not that the past two decades have gone particularly well for St. Louis, outside of a three-year window when Kurt Warner set the world on fire. Maybe it’s time for a change in philosophy.

Last week I wrote that this could be the breakout season for Bradford. Obviously, that isn’t going to happen anymore, and the Rams season is going to suffer. I also suggested that St. Louis couldn’t afford to cut him if he played poorly, but this injury changes things a bit. It would be hard for the Rams to waste another year of the defense’s prime with Hill or a replacement level QB, but can they really afford to spend $13 million on a quarterback that has torn the ACL in his plant leg twice and missed 25 games in two years? More likely than not Bradford has played his last snap for the Rams, and probably his last snap as a week one starting QB. His legacy in St. Louis will end as one of the bigger busts in Rams draft history.