- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams lost Kellen Clemens to a two-year contract from the San Diego Chargers on Thursday. On the surface, it's a simple departure from a backup quarterback headed somewhere for a better deal.
Initial reports pegged the deal as worth $3 million over the two seasons, a modest contract that if fulfilled would come out to about $1 million more than the veteran minimum. Perhaps Clemens wanted to go to San Diego regardless -- who, other than Eli Manning, wouldn't? -- but that's an offer the Rams could have matched or slightly bettered to keep him. And they should have.
Let's make it clear right away: Clemens is not a Pro Bowl quarterback. He's not even a starter. But Clemens proved in 2013 that he can have some success filling in if used the right way and was one of the most respected players in the locker room. His value to the team went well beyond replacing an injured Sam Bradford.
Perhaps more than anything, if the Rams are as set on drafting a young quarterback at some point in May as they have indicated time and again, Clemens would have made the ideal mentor.
Clemens is entering his ninth season in the league and by this time, we know he's best served as a backup. Considering Bradford is coming off an ACL injury, there's little doubt the Rams could stand to upgrade the depth chart at quarterback. The team has already been pretty open about adding a quarterback at some point in this year's draft and in an ideal world, that rookie would be able to serve as the No. 2 quarterback sooner rather than later.
But what if Bradford has a setback in recovery from ACL surgery? What if he suffers another injury early in the year? It's unlikely the Rams will be able to find a rookie quarterback in the middle rounds ready to step in and play right away.
Clemens knows coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense better than anyone and proved he can at least keep the Rams in games in 2013 when they went 4-5 with him under center. It made sense for Clemens to come back to serve as the primary backup for Bradford and tutor for the unnamed rookie until he's ready to become the No. 2.
Perhaps $3 million over two years is a little steep for a player who would be a No. 3 quarterback but I believe Clemens would have been worth it and, worst case scenario, the Rams could have moved on from him if and when the rookie was ready to contribute.
Instead, the Rams now find themselves in a situation similar to last year. Bradford is the starter and Austin Davis is the lone backup on the roster. Early in the 2013 offseason, the Rams had the same duo in place and seemed poised to give Davis the chance to become the backup. That never materialized as the Rams re-signed Clemens and opened up a competition which Clemens eventually won.
Bradford's injury left Clemens as the starter and the team brought Davis back to serve as a backup. The team clearly wasn't comfortable with Davis as the No. 2 last offseason and it's hard to see why this year would be any different.
Sure, the Rams could go sign a different veteran if they want to have a third quarterback around to help a potential rookie. Perhaps even one who will make less than Clemens in 2014. Bradford should be able to provide some veteran guidance by this point, too, but also has the more pressing need of recovering from knee surgery.
Losing Clemens isn't going to make or break the Rams' season, it might not even register a blip on the radar as 2014 moves along. But in the bigger picture, keeping Clemens around would have been a logical move for this season and beyond.