Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Rams stand by Bradford, leave wiggle room
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As so often happens during draft week, rumors and speculation have moved to a different stratosphere, and the St. Louis Rams' potential interest in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is at the eye of the storm.
In the past 48 hours, much has been made of the potential for the Rams to execute a franchise-altering move that would see them draft Manziel and potentially part ways with incumbent Sam Bradford.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Rams general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher took questions from the media and joined their front-office counterparts around the league in tap dancing around questions. It's all part of the game at this time of year, but there's no doubt that Manziel and the quarterback spot were at the top of the agenda.
As they have since January, Fisher and Snead again provided a vote of confidence for Bradford. But for those who choose to read between the lines, there is some room for wiggling should the team truly intend to make the boldest move of all.
"Johnny was probably one of a dozen quarterbacks that we worked out over this process. And with respect to Sam, he is our starter," Fisher said. "As you guys know, that’s the reason I took this job ... because of Sam [as] our quarterback, and we have all the confidence in the world that he’ll be back.
"But we also have the responsibility to continue to upgrade this roster. As it would suggest, we are interested in the right guys there to help in a backup role to Sam, and we’ll make sure we’ve done our due diligence."
As we sit down to play this little poker game, we can look at the use of present tense in that phrase and suggest that indeed Bradford is the quarterback of the team right now. There's no disputing that.
The next question was more direct, asking if the Rams are shopping Bradford. Fisher said no, which aligns with everything the Rams have said in the past 48 hours on the subject.
Fisher was then asked if something could change between now and the first round on Thursday that would possibly change Bradford's status?
"Anything can happen," Fisher said. "Good question, but I think it’s highly unlikely. We’ve identified six to eight players that we think could potentially fit us at 2. And then we’ve gone on with the additional process at 13."
Highly unlikely is about where I've placed the odds on the Rams taking Manziel or any quarterback at No. 2 or 13 for most of this process. It's also not the same as saying no way, no how. And for those paying attention, it's never wise to make definitive claims such as that on anything in the NFL, something the Rams' reunion with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams should've reminded us of a few months ago. And when it comes to the NFL draft, all bets are off, as smokescreens and misinformation rule the day.
But for the Rams to make the move on Manziel, they'd have to be fully convinced he's their franchise quarterback of the future. Could he slide to No. 13 and be the pick there? Sure, but that would also fall into the category of highly unlikely. Which means the decision has to be made as to whether the Rams think enough of Manziel to pull the trigger on him at No. 2.
The argument can be made that, because it's a quarterback, if you like him at 13, then you like him at 2. For most positions that's not true, but for the most important one on the field, it is.
Back in January, Snead said the Rams taking a quarterback at No. 2 would be a bit "too far out of the box." Asked Tuesday whether that's still the case, he didn't exactly echo the sentiment.
"When you’re picking 2, you have got to figure out who all has got to be in play for all kinds of scenarios, whether it’s trading and all of that, so I think at any point with your football team you try to do what’s best," Snead said. "It’s Friday [of a theoretical game week], I’m not going to tell you our first 10 plays."
Or any of them, for that matter. When all is said and done, I believe the Rams do have some genuine interest in Manziel. They might not even know yet whether that interest is strong enough to make the type of move that would send shock waves through the league.
Of the many words Fisher and Snead spoke on Tuesday, much of them carried little meaning, but the one that I keep coming back to is "unlikely." As we trudge toward the first round and the drama it holds, it's worth remembering that "unlikely" isn't synonymous with "impossible."