Sam Bradford was the last #1 pick to truly hit the lottery.  2010s #1 overall selection, his 6-year/$78 million contract included $50 million in guaranteed money.

Unfortunately for the NFL Draft’s subsequent top selections, the 2011 CBA included the implementation of rookie wage scale. Both the owners and veteran players had been fed up with unproven rookies making such absurd amounts of money.

Four years into Sam Bradford’s career (his 2013 campaign ended when he tore his ACL in November), and he’s one of many poster children for why a rookie wage scale makes sense.  Although injuries, poor offensive-line play and a lack of talented skill position players have all played their role, Bradford remains unproven.

A 2-14 2011 season gave the Rams the #2 overall selection in the 2012 draft, as well as the opportunity to take QB Robert Griffin III.  But cutting bait on Bradford was never really an option at that point for St. Louis.  They had just drafted him two years earlier, which not only meant that the jury remained out on him, but also that they still owed him a lot of money—his 2012 & 2013 salaries were both fully guaranteed.

Sam Bradford (QB) 11/8/87 (26 years old)–Contract Details


So the Rams held on to Bradford while accumulating a heap of draft picks in their draft day trade with the Redskins. And somehow, two years later, they find themselves in a jarringly similar position.

The Rams own Washington’s 2014 first round pick, which is currently the 2nd overall selection with three weeks left in the regular season.  The difference this time around is that cutting ties with Bradford would only result in about $7 million in dead money, whereas doing so two years ago would have amounted to almost $33 million in dead money.  Moreover, Bradford wasn’t rehabbing a torn ACL at this point two years ago. And while more and more players are showing remarkable recovery ability from this type of injury, it’s of course no sure thing.

Bradford’s current contract stipulates $1.75 million of both his 2014 & 2015 salaries are guaranteed, while his cap hits for ’14 & ’15 are $17,610,000 and $16,580,000, respectively. And one thing is certain—St. Louis cannot afford to have an unproven quarterback rehabbing a torn ACL take up $17.6 million of next year’s salary cap space.

Trusted Rams reporter Jim Thomas of the St Louis Post-Dispatch doesn’t think that the Rams will use one of their 2014 first-round picks on a quarterback. However that could change in the next 3 weeks.

Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, the top quarterback prospect in the country, is the heavy favorite to be the first quarterback taken in April’s draft.  If Houston—the current owner of the #1 pick and a franchise in dire need of a quarterback—continues to lose (@IND, vs.DEN, @TEN), then Bridgewater will almost certainly be a Texan.

But if the Texans can pull off an upset or two while the Redskins (@ATL, vs.DAL, @NYG) continue to lose, then the Rams will own the #1 pick as well as the rights to Bridgewater.  Looking at the Texans and Redskins remaining schedules, this may seem unlikely.  However if you watched any football this past Sunday, you know it’s certainly not impossible.

Ultimately, Sam Bradford’s NFL future may rest on the outcomes of the last 3 Texans and Redskins games.  Otherwise, he will likely remain a Ram in 2014, while being forced to restructure his contract or take a pay cut.

Andrew Cohen