Ever since Jeff Fisher was hired as the Rams’ head coach in January, he has been unwavering in his support for quarterback Sam Bradford. Most recently, Fisher told Jim Rome, “The reason I came here is because of Sam. We’ve got a franchise quarterback here.”
Repeating a theme he has said frequently this offseason, Fisher added, “You have to kind of delete last year, look back to the way he played his rookie year, under Pat Shurmur, who did a great job with him in this offense. We’re very excited. Brian Schottenheimer’s an outstanding coach and we’ve got a fabulous quarterbacks coach in Frank Cignetti. They’re off to a real good start. It’s really fun to watch him work and watch him improve.”
While that all is probably true, a recent restructuring of Bradford’s contract along with the original terms would make it easier for the team to move on from Bradford if he doesn’t perform at a high level for the next two seasons.
Remember the constant mentions of the $50 million guaranteed in Bradford’s six-year, $78 million contract? Well, the restructuring has removed $6 million of those absolute guarantees, including a total of $6.41 million from the final two years of his deal. However, that money accelerated into his 2013 salary when the team exercised an option bonus in 2011.
Getting most of the attention in the restructuring that was signed on May 9 is the conversion of his $12 million base salary for this season into a $6 million roster bonus with the other $6 million remaining as base salary. The bonus was paid when he signed, giving Bradford the money immediately, and there is no effect on the salary cap because roster bonuses count fully in the year they are paid. League sources said the Rams were simply trying to “clean up” some language from his rookie deal and the roster bonus was offered as a “thank you.”
There was a change in the guaranteed aspect of his base salary for this year. Previously, the $12 million was guaranteed for skill and injury; skill meaning a player is paid even if he is released because of performance. However, his new $6 million salary is now guaranteed only for injury. In the extremely unlikely event Bradford would be released before the season, the Rams would not be liable for his salary for this season.
They would, however, still be on the hook for $8 million in salary in 2013, which is guaranteed for skill and injury. His total salary next year is $9 million. It does make you wonder why the skill guarantee was removed this year. It could simply be a concession by agent Tom Condon to receive the money in advance when he knows Bradford won’t be released.
As for 2014 and 2015, Bradford’s salaries remain $14.015 and $12.985 million, respectively, but none of the money is guaranteed. In his old contract, $2.805 million was guaranteed in 2014 and $3.605 million in 2015.
None of the restructuring changes any salary cap charges, which are $15.595 million this year, $12.595 million in 2013, $17.610 million in 2014 and $16.58 million in 2015. Each of those figures includes a yearly prorated signing bonus total of $3.595 million.
If the Rams were to go in another direction after 2013, the remaining cap charge would be $7.19 million and could be split over two years.
Also notable is that Bradford still has $48 million in cash left on his contract, but if it is played out, there is a total of $62.38 million in cap charges remaining.
Having said all that, what is certainly possible is that Bradford plays well and continues to improve, clearing the way for a new contract and extension entering the 2014 season that would convert those base salaries into a signing bonus and thus reduce the cap hits.
— Coach Jeff Fisher continues to sing the praises of cornerback Janoris Jenkins one of the team’s three second-round picks this year.
Asked by KMOX Radio about Jenkins’ off-field issues, Fisher said, “You know, he’s a great young man. As is this case when you have issues early in careers, there’s an immaturity factor there. People grow up and recognize that they made bad decisions. They make mistakes and they move on. And that’s been the case with him.
“We did our background checks. We did our due diligence. We did the preparation. We did the research. And all along the way, everybody we talked to – including his high school coach, mentor here, police officer there, somebody in Florida, somebody at North Alabama – every single person said: ‘Take this kid.’ And I don’t want to say ‘kid’ anymore. He’s a fine young man. So he’s going to be fine. He’s going to have a great career in this league.”
As for Jenkins’ on-field ability, Fisher said, “Well, he’s instinctive. It’s amazing to watch him. A complete understanding of what he’s doing out there. He takes stuff from the board in the classroom to the field with ease. He’s going to challenge a lot of receivers. So you figure (Jenkins) on one side and Cortland Finnegan on the other. And we’re going to bring Trumaine Johnson along. We’re excited.”
— Tackle Jason Smith told cbssports.com, “I’m focused on being a better teammate and a better football player. With that being said, I’m really excited I’m a Ram and I’m happy the organization under coach (Jeff) Fisher’s leadership has kept me around so I can be a part of it and play and look forward to being productive.”
Smith accepted a pay cut to return to the Rams and will likely become a free agent after the season. He has also started a total of only 26 of a possible 48 games because of injuries since being the second overall choice in the 2009 draft.
Asked about staying healthy, especially considering the injuries he suffered in 2009 and 2011 were concussions, Smith said, “I feel confident in my preparation up until this point. I’m very excited about just having the ability to show up to work every day. I want to be a part of what we’re doing. In order to do that, you have to be healthy and be on the field. I just keep my focus on things I can control.”
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I heard great things about coach Fisher all the time but when I had a chance to come in and talk to him one on one when I had my visit out here, he’s impressive. The way he approaches the game, the way he approaches his job, his attitude, it’s attractive for a player. He had a large impact.” — Free-agent defensive tackle addition Trevor Laws on the impact coach Jeff Fisher had on his decision to sign with the Rams.