Of course, teams covet Sam Bradford; would you rather have Josh McCown?
When the best quarterback on the free-agent market, at least until players start getting cut, is McCown — a 35-year-old journeyman who had a woeful 70.5 passer rating while starting 11 games for the even more woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season — then passer-needy teams will start seeing halos over the heads of just about anybody with a strong pedigree. And Bradford, for all his injuries and heartbreak, definitely has that.
When the Rams made Bradford the first overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, he was considered a slam-dunk franchise savior. He was a Heisman winner from Oklahoma, and from the strength of his arm and football savvy to his accuracy and attitude, he was seen as the real deal, without a doubt.
And he has had his moments in St. Louis, particularly when he threw for 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2012.
But Bradford’s 2013 season ended after seven games with a torn ACL, and he didn’t even make it out of the preseason last year, when he blew out his knee again. Which makes him a fairly enormous question mark for the Rams heading into the 2015 season.
Throw in the fact that he’s due almost $13 million in base salary in the last year of his contract, and it’s hard to imagine another team casting its lot with Bradford as its starting quarterback this fall.
According to multiple reports, new coach Rex Ryan and the Bills are interested. Buffalo has a promising corps of young receivers (Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods most prominent among them), and only third-year QB E.J. Manuel to throw to them.
Last week the alleged Bradford admirer was Cleveland, where Johnny Manziel was predictably awful and problematic in his rookie season.
Next week it could be somebody else; when the likes of Geno Smith, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Fitzpatrick are NFL starters, there are bound to be wandering eyes in teams’ front offices.
Then again, Bradford must be looking pretty good to the Rams, too, considering all the time, money and patience they’ve already invested in him. And if they were to trade Bradford, they wouldn’t be any better off than the Bills or Browns are now, considering the lack of dazzle in their 2014 starters, journeyman Shaun Hill and youngster Austin Davis — the former a pending unrestricted free agent, the latter largely unproven while heading into restricted free agency.
The draft? Let’s just say the choices this year aren’t viewed with the certainty that Bradford was five years ago. Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota are considered the only potential first-rounders, and both come with concerns, and both figure to be off the board well before the Rams pick. St. Louis could select someone from the next tier of prospects, but none of those guys could be expected to step into a starting role anytime soon. And one thing coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead don’t have in abundance these days is time.
Which brings us to McCown, the jewel, if you will, of a free-agent class that, at the moment, includes Matt Moore, Michael Vick, Kyle Orton, Christian Ponder, Mark Sanchez, Colt McCoy and Blaine Gabbert, for cryin’ out loud.
Yeah, Bradford is looking pretty darn good right now. Knees and all.
So don’t be surprised if teams keep kicking the tires. And the Rams keep him locked in their garage.