Rams should stand firm against Sam Bradford mega-deal

At a time when the NFL has done everything it can to create the impression that the player compensation system doesn’t work — and that the current formula for paying first-round picks represents the most broken aspect of the process — how can the St. Louis Rams justify paying $50 million guaranteed to quarterback Sam Bradford?
 
The Rams have no obligation to make a snap decision on a fat deal for Sam Bradford.
The Rams have no obligation to make a snap decision on a fat deal for Sam Bradford.

On Wednesday, a team that has advanced to the playoffs twice in three years unveiled a financial report that demonstrates a drop of nearly $25 million in operating profits in only two years. On Friday, a team that has won a total of six games in those same three years will formally commence a process that many expect to result in a contract that guarantees $50 million to a man who has never played a down in the NFL.

 
Sure, the Rams made Bradford the 2010 draft’s first overall pick. And, yes, the jump to $50 million represents the next logical step in the development of a process that slowly has gone haywire over the past decade.
 
But why continue? The Rams have no obligation to spend the money. Under the labor deal, they must tender to Bradford a one-year contract worth the rookie minimum salary of $320,000, nothing more. With the salary floor gone and the rookie salary pool establishing only an easily circumvented ceiling on the first-year pay to each team’s entire class of rookies, the Rams can decide to take a stand.
 
Some NFL insiders believe they should. In a year before owners are expected to lock out the players, the Rams could spark a process that, as a practical matter, locks out the first-round picks who aren’t willing to accept whatever teams will pay. With a potential work stoppage coming up in 2011 and an even greater likelihood of a rookie wage scale looming for the next agreement, the prospects of sitting out a year have become less attractive than ever before.
 
Like most bold moves, a hard line from the Rams would entail significant risk. If more teams follow suit, the inevitable collusion claim from the NFLPA arising from depressed free agency activity will be strengthened. Moreover, if Bradford refuses to budge (and, trust me, agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra will insist that Bradford holds firm), the Rams will have to deal with a fan base that wonders whether the franchise is serious about improving on its 1-15 finish in 2009.
 

But these are unusual times. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots have decided not to sign their respective franchise quarterbacks to long-term deals until the labor situation is resolved, and barely a peep has emerged in response.

 
The Chargers have undermined their championship ambitions for 2010 by playing hardball with top receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill.
 
And, for the most part, fans have yet to stand up and demand that the teams fork over even more money to players who are perceived to be grossly overpaid (even if, in reality, they aren’t).
 
Maybe, then, the Rams could pull it off. Maybe they’d be cheered, not jeered, for shouting "enough" to players and agents who have preyed on the desperation of the NFL’s worst teams to win, steamrolling their front offices for bigger and bigger top-10 rookie deals.
 
If the league wants to sell the notion that teams can’t continue to follow what Packers CEO Mark Murphy called upon release of his team’s financial data a "non-sustainable model," the Rams possibly have no other choice.
 
Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.
At a time when the NFL has done everything it can to create the impression that the player compensation system doesn’t work — and that the current formula for paying first-round picks represents the most broken aspect of the process — how can the St. Louis Rams justify paying $50 million guaranteed to quarterback Sam Bradford?
 
The Rams have no obligation to make a snap decision on a fat deal for Sam Bradford.
The Rams have no obligation to make a snap decision on a fat deal for Sam Bradford.

On Wednesday, a team that has advanced to the playoffs twice in three years unveiled a financial report that demonstrates a drop of nearly $25 million in operating profits in only two years. On Friday, a team that has won a total of six games in those same three years will formally commence a process that many expect to result in a contract that guarantees $50 million to a man who has never played a down in the NFL.

 
Sure, the Rams made Bradford the 2010 draft’s first overall pick. And, yes, the jump to $50 million represents the next logical step in the development of a process that slowly has gone haywire over the past decade.
 
But why continue? The Rams have no obligation to spend the money. Under the labor deal, they must tender to Bradford a one-year contract worth the rookie minimum salary of $320,000, nothing more. With the salary floor gone and the rookie salary pool establishing only an easily circumvented ceiling on the first-year pay to each team’s entire class of rookies, the Rams can decide to take a stand.
 
Some NFL insiders believe they should. In a year before owners are expected to lock out the players, the Rams could spark a process that, as a practical matter, locks out the first-round picks who aren’t willing to accept whatever teams will pay. With a potential work stoppage coming up in 2011 and an even greater likelihood of a rookie wage scale looming for the next agreement, the prospects of sitting out a year have become less attractive than ever before.
 
Like most bold moves, a hard line from the Rams would entail significant risk. If more teams follow suit, the inevitable collusion claim from the NFLPA arising from depressed free agency activity will be strengthened. Moreover, if Bradford refuses to budge (and, trust me, agents Tom Condon and Ben Dogra will insist that Bradford holds firm), the Rams will have to deal with a fan base that wonders whether the franchise is serious about improving on its 1-15 finish in 2009.
 

But these are unusual times. Teams like the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots have decided not to sign their respective franchise quarterbacks to long-term deals until the labor situation is resolved, and barely a peep has emerged in response.

 
The Chargers have undermined their championship ambitions for 2010 by playing hardball with top receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill.
 
And, for the most part, fans have yet to stand up and demand that the teams fork over even more money to players who are perceived to be grossly overpaid (even if, in reality, they aren’t).
 
Maybe, then, the Rams could pull it off. Maybe they’d be cheered, not jeered, for shouting "enough" to players and agents who have preyed on the desperation of the NFL’s worst teams to win, steamrolling their front offices for bigger and bigger top-10 rookie deals.
 
If the league wants to sell the notion that teams can’t continue to follow what Packers CEO Mark Murphy called upon release of his team’s financial data a "non-sustainable model," the Rams possibly have no other choice.
 
Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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