Take it for what it's worth. Best case scenario, we add another name to the list of those we can chuckle at if Bradford does, in fact, sign prior to the draft. But there are some interesting points in there (ie. leverage, etc).
Thursday & Long: Bradford Won't Sign Before Draft
4/15/2010 10:49 AM ET
By Dan Graziano
Sam Bradford to the Rams with the No. 1 pick in next week's draft has the feel of a foregone conclusion, but it's still not without its potential complications. A source close to the situation told FanHouse on Wednesday that Bradford is "not doing a deal, period, until he is drafted."
That would represent a change in recent trends. The last two No. 1 picks -- Matthew Stafford of the Lions in 2009 and Jake Long of the Dolphins in 2008 -- agreed to contracts before they were selected, as did Mario Williams of the Texans in 2006. The Raiders took JaMarcus Russell at No. 1 in 2007 without signing him beforehand, and that resulted in a complete fiasco in which Russell didn't sign until September.
Now, that's not to say that Bradford, who appears to have both a brain in his head and an idea of how to order a salad, will turn out to be another Russell. But his refusal to sign a pre-draft deal does bring up some issues that indicate the Rams have a thornier issue on their hands than you may think.
The main thing Bradford gains by not signing pre-draft is leverage. If the Rams take him No. 1, they have to sign him. Given the current, miserable state of their franchise, they can't blow the No. 1 pick. There's no way they could face their fans and say, "Sorry, we picked the franchise quarterback we needed, but he was asking for too much, so we didn't sign him." Bradford's agents (the same agents who represented Stafford a year ago) are determined to get him more than Stafford got (six years, $72 million with $41.7 million guaranteed), and they know their chances of getting it from the Rams will increase sharply after the Rams pick Bradford.
None of this is news to the Rams, who have already exchanged figures with Bradford's agents and know what it's going to take to get Bradford signed. But the Rams' financial situation is murky, because the team is in the process of being sold, and so it's hard to say for sure whether they have the money it's going to take to get Stafford. Two sources close to the situation told me they believe the Rams have set aside money for the purpose of signing all of their 2010 draft picks, regardless of how the ownership matter plays out, but since nobody knows who's going to end up owning the team, it's hard to know for sure whether they're equipped to commit to Bradford as much as he's looking for.
So, there remains a slim chance the Rams could pick somebody else, such as Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy, with the top pick. Either would be a good, safe pick and cost less than what Bradford is asking, but neither would solve the Rams' quarterback problem.
There also remains a slim chance that the Rams could trade out of the No. 1 pick -- that a team such as the Seahawks or Browns, who still have QB needs and who rate Bradford ahead of the rest of this year's QB draft class -- could swing a deal with St. Louis for that No. 1 pick, allowing the Rams to fill another need in the first round, take somebody like Colt McCoy for quarterback in the second and stockpile picks to help rebuild at several positions.
And that possibility speaks to one other reason Bradford may be refusing to do a pre-draft deal -- namely, that he doesn't want to be a Ram. Bradford has denied this publicly, which is what you'd expect him to do, but there are people around him who, as recently as last month, were hoping the Redskins would move up and take Bradford, since they liked the idea of him developing under coach Mike Shanahan.
That doesn't mean, of course, that Bradford has anything against the Rams. It may just mean that he and the people around him really like Shanahan. The Redskins dream evaporated last week when Washington acquired Donovan McNabb from the Eagles, and with Shanahan no longer available as career mentor, St. Louis may be just fine with Bradford. But we do know that it wasn't his first choice, and so it may be that he wants to hang on and see if a better situation presents itself in the form of a more preferable team trading up.
Either way, it looks as if there's still a bit of drama yet to play out around Sam Bradford, the Rams and the No. 1 pick in next week's draft -- even if it looks like a foregone conclusion.