============== ST. LOUIS RAMS ============== INSIDE SLANT Rams part ways with Bradford Throughout the offseason, the St. Louis Rams insisted quarterback Sam Bradford would be their quarterback for the 2015 season. He met with Frank Cignetti before Cignetti was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. He had dinner with Cignetti and Chris Weinke before […]
============== ST. LOUIS RAMS ==============
INSIDE SLANT Rams part ways with Bradford Throughout the offseason, the St. Louis Rams insisted quarterback Sam Bradford would be their quarterback for the 2015 season. He met with Frank Cignetti before Cignetti was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. He had dinner with Cignetti and Chris Weinke before Weinke was named quarterbacks coach. But all that meant little when the Rams dropped a bombshell by dealing Bradford to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Nick Foles. The Rams also will get the Eagles’ fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and a second-round pick in 2016. The Eagles get the Rams’ fifth-round pick in 2015 and a conditional pick in 2016. If Bradford plays fewer than 50 percent of the snaps, the Eagles get a fourth-round pick. They get a third-round pick if he misses the entire season because of injury. The Eagles get a quarterback who has missed the last 25 games because of two torn ACLs and has played a total of just 49 of a possible 80 games since being the first overall choice in the 2010 draft. “Sam was a leader on our team in the locker room and on the field,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said in a statement. “He was a great teammate who was dealt some adversity but handled it all with grace and dignity. He represented himself as well as the organization in a first-class manner. I wish him nothing but the best throughout his career.” Rams owner Stan Kroenke added, “Throughout his five years with the Rams, Sam has been a consummate professional. We thank Sam for his dedication to our team and community and wish him and his family the best moving forward.” The Rams get a quarterback who was selected in the third round of the 2012 draft, excelled at a high level when he took over for Michael Vick in 2013, and then slumped in eight starts last season before missing the final eight games after suffering a broken clavicle. “I’m extremely excited about adding Nick to our team,” Fisher said. “Nick is a talented young quarterback and will be a great addition to our offense. I look forward to getting him here as we prepare to start our offseason program.” Finances certainly played a role in the deal. Bradford, who was paid $65 million for those 49 games, is entering the final year of his contract and has a base salary of $12.985 million. He was scheduled to count $16.58 million against the Rams cap, including the final year of signing bonus proration of $3.595 million. The Rams had been trying to restructure Bradford’s contract to reduce the cap charge, but were met with resistance. The $3.595 million will still count against the Rams’ cap as dead money. Foles, meanwhile, is also entering the final year of his contract, but at a significantly lower cap charge: $1.542 million. That total includes a $20,000 workout bonus. The swap saves the Rams $11.443 million against the cap. Their quarterback depth chart now shows Foles, Austin Davis and Case Keenum, who was acquired from the Houston Texas for a seventh-round pick in 2016. Keenum was claimed on waivers by the Rams from Houston last summer after Bradford had been lost for the season. He was later waived and added to the practice squad, but was signed by the Texans late in the season because of injuries and started Houston’s final two games. Shaun Hill, who entered the 2014 season as Bradford’s backup and started eight games, left for Minnesota Tuesday as an unrestricted free agent. While the universal perception is that Foles is now the Rams’ nominal starter, don’t tell that to Davis. He has been tendered $1.542 million as a restricted free agent, the same money that Foles is slated to earn. Last season, when both started eight games, their numbers were remarkably similar. Foles completed 186-of-311 passes (59.8) percent for 2,163 yards (6.95 per attempt) with 13 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 81.4. Davis, meanwhile, starting the first games of his career, was 180-for-284 (63.4 percent) for 2,001 yards (7.05 per attempt) with 12 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a passer rating of 85.1. NOTES, QUOTES –Defensive tackle Nick Fairley signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rams. With Fairley in the mix, the Rams feature five first-round picks on their defensive line — ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn and tackles Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald, along with Fairley, a first-rounder in 2011 who played 46 games with the Detroit Lions. The Auburn standout was the 13th overall pick. “You’ve got those guys up there and a guy next to me like Aaron that’s going to basically take on some double teams, I’m going to take on some double teams,” Fairley said at a press conference at the team’s Earth City, Mo., headquarters. “So, it’s going to be a good fit for me.” The Lions declined the fifth-year option on his contract and made no attempt to bring him back after losing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and trading for Haloti Ngata. “They didn’t pick it up,” Fairley said. “It’s just the nature of the business to me. I just took it and ran with it.” Fairley was injured in Week 8 and did not practice again until January when the Lions were preparing for their wild-card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said last month that Fairley’s knee injury would not be a long-term issue. Fairley’s deal includes $3 million in incentives, per reports, which could give him a chance to make $8 million in 2015 and then return to free agency in March 2016. One reason the Rams might have preferred a short-term deal — Fairley has struggled to maintain a healthy playing weight for much of his pro career. “I don’t feel like I have anything to prove,” Fairley said. “It’s a new start for me. I’m just ready to start. (I’m going to) get here in April and get ready for these offseason workouts.” –Despite the way rookie running back Tre Mason played in the second half of the 2014 season, it appears the Rams will still look to continue with a committee approach, not wanting to have Mason wear down over the long NFL season. General manager Les Snead said, “I think he showed that he can be an explosive, dynamic weapon for us. And he can get the tough yards, and even make some catches. But I think in the NFL you probably want multiple backs because 16 games is a tough, tough load.” While Mason was inactive for the first four games of the season, coach Jeff Fisher said it was “it took Tre some time to learn to play without the football. You can’t put a running back in there and have him not know who to pick up. You can’t get your quarterback hit. The pass game, you’ve got to get to different places and so it takes time. It takes all running backs time.” –Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams plans to come up with more ways to utilize safety Mark Barron in 2015. The Rams acquired him from Tampa Bay for fourth- and sixth-round in late October, but already had T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod starting at the safety spots. When asked to assess the deal, Snead said, “I don’t know that we’ve given him a report card, but he was a kid that was available. We liked him in college. But because of the defense and the scheme we were under, we had some creative ideas in how we thought we would use him. And that’s really from coach Fish, and coach Williams, and the staff saying hey, this is how we would use him in a hybrid role. Because we had two starting safeties, so we never wanted to put those two on the bench. We wanted to take Mark Barron and utilize him in ways that will make us a better defense. “I think we did that. And I think over the second half of the season — not saying it’s all Mark Barron — but I think the last eight games our defense really started playing. I think as we go into the offseason, there’s even a better thought process on how we use him creatively.” STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL TEAM NEEDS 1. Guard: With Davin Joseph unlikely to be re-signed, the Rams will surely be searching for someone to start. Rodger Saffold is entrenched as one guard, whether it be on the left or right side. 2. Tackle: The need on the right side is dependent on whether Joe Barksdale leaves in free agency. If he does, the position is wide open. 3. Center: With Wells a cap casualty, the need there depends on what the team believes the future is for Barrett Jones, Demetrius Rhaney and Tim Barnes. PERSONNEL TRACKER FRANCHISE PLAYER: None. TRANSITION PLAYER: None. UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS –T Joe Barksdale has been durable and solid manning the right side of the offensive line. The Rams want him back, and is still availabl;e after not getting the money he expected. –DT Alex Carrington was part of the rotation last season. He can be competitive, but the Rams won’t go very high to re-sign him. –LB Will Herring contributed on special teams and was one of the older players on the roster. Head coach Jeff Fisher values special teams, so he might return on a minimum deal. –G Davin Joseph was up and down during the 2014 season, but was better than anyone else the Rams had. He is not expected to be re-signed. RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS –QB Austin Davis (tendered at $1.542M with no compensation) is an intriguing player. He entered camp last summer as the fourth quarterback, but showed what he can do when given the chance to play.. –TE Cory Harkey (tendered at $1.542M with no compensation) continues to improve. Not only can he block and catch, but Harkey has shown his toughness playing through injuries. –S Rodney McLeod (tendered at $2.356M with second-round pick as compensation) has established himself as a productive player. He might not be a top-of-the-line safety, but his ability to defend the run and pass makes him an important part of the secondary. EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS –G Brandon Washington (tendered at $585,000) has the size to play, but has seemed to settle in as good swing backup. PLAYERS RE-SIGNED –C Tim Barnes: Not tendered as RFA; $710,017/1 yr, $50,017 RB. –WR Kenny Britt: $9.15M/2 yrs, $2.55M guaranteed. –TE Lance Kendricks: UFA; $18.5M/4 yrs, $10M guaranteed/$4M RB 2015/$1.25M RB 2016. –RB Chase Reynolds: ERFA; $585,000/1 yr. PLAYERS ACQUIRED –LB Akeem Ayers: UFA Patriots; $6M/2 yrs, $2.75M guaranteed. –DT Nick Fairley: UFA Lions; $5M/1 yr; $1.5M guaranteed. –QB Nick Foles (trade Eagles). –QB Case Keenum (trade Texans). –T/G Garrett Reynolds: UFA Lions; $2.2M/2 yrs, $249,999 RB guaranteed. PLAYERS LOST –QB Sam Bradford (traded Eagles). –QB Shaun Hill: UFA Vikings; $6.5M/2 yrs, $3M guaranteed. –DT Kendall Langford (released). –T Jake Long (released/failed physical). –T/G Mike Person: UFA Falcons; $3.35M/3 yrs, $500,000 SB. –C Scott Wells (released).