NFL teams are allowed to trade players when the new league year begins on March 10, and there could be a major move on the horizon.
The Buffalo Bills are reportedly interested in acquiring St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, according to a report from Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. It's a move that would end the injury-prone former top pick’s tenure with St. Louis after five years.
During the NFL scouting combined last weekend reports also linked the Cleveland Browns to Bradford, but Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said team is counting on the 27-year-old for next season.
"I was surprised to hear that,'' Fisher to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "That's inaccurate. No, I mean. We talked about what our plans are for him.''
NFL.com went further, stating no team has contacted the Rams about Bradford, but stated his agent was “allowed” to speak with other teams to see what his client’s current value is on the open market. Fisher also previously denied Bradford or his agent was given permission to find viable trade options.
Yet despite all sides apparently dispelling any sort of trade talk, the speculation presumably must have started within one of the organizations or Bradford’s camp.
The Rams and Fisher have publicly stated that they want to bring Bradford back next season, despite him sitting out all of 2014 with a second torn ACL in two years. Missing 31 games throughout his short career, Bradford last played a full season in 2012, when he completed 21 touchdown passes.
Bradford enters the final year of the mega six-year, $78 million rookie contract he signed with St. Louis in 2010, the last of its kind before the NFL instituted the rookie pay scale. He’s scheduled to make $12.9 million in salary next season, and will register a $16.6 million cap hit with bonuses.
Bradford will be the second highest paid Ram next season, and St. Louis reportedly would like to rework his contract to free up some cap space. However, given his injury history and dwindling value, Bradford is likely to decline since he’s unlikely to earn as much in a new deal with a new team.
The Rams may instead consider releasing Bradford for a dead money charge of $3.6 million, according to figures from Spotrac, but that would further limit their already dire salary cap situation.
The Rams are one of only three NFL teams currently over the salary cap for next season, at $1.4 million, and ahead of only the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints.
While they are publicly decrying any trade talk, any such move would be a way for the Rams to retain a pick or new players for Bradford rather than taking such a cap hit.
The Bills could be looking for a more experienced quarterback to help top receiver Sammy Watkins develop, along with the promising Robert Woods, but they already have third-year passer E.J. Manuel on the roster.
Former head coach Doug Marrone pulled Manuel from the starting lineup after four games last season in favor of veteran Kyle Orton. Buffalo succeeded and nearly made the postseason with a 9-7 record, but Marrone abruptly left over an apparent disagreement with the front office over Manuel’s status with the team.
Bills general Doug Whaley let it be known to head coaching candidates during his search that they would have to develop Manuel. However, new head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman apparently “aren’t sold” on Manuel, Yahoo reported.
Without a first-round pick in this year’s draft after acquiring Watkins in 2014, the Bills have little to offer the Rams for Bradford unless they included one of their defensive stars or picks in the later rounds.
The Browns are hoping to bring back quarterback Johnny Manziel once he’s finished his stint in rehab. But based off his performances during his rookie season, Manziel’s future in Cleveland is in jeopardy and the team is likely on the search for some depth at the position.