During the majority of the Jeff Fisher era, the Rams have been thought of as a serviceable QB away from being a legitimate playoff contender. After the quick turnaround from 2-14 to 7-8-1 in Jeff Fisher’s first season as coach, expectations have been high for the Rams, but it seems every year since then they have been a QB short of taking the next step. QB play has haunted the Rams ever since Sam Bradford went down with a torn ACL week 7 of the 2013 season, a season which seemed like it was going to be his breakout year, as he posted 14 TDs and just 4 interceptions in his shortened season. Since then, you could say that the Rams have tried out their fair share of QBs, including Kellen Clemons, Shaun Hill, Austin Davis, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum, all of which were/have been nothing more than mediocre in their stints with the Rams. To make matters worse, the Rams turned down a first round pick from Cleveland in exchange for Bradford, and instead opted to trade him and a 5th rounder to the Eagles in exchange for Nick Foles, and 2nd and 4th round draft picks. Nick Foles was expected to be the guy that could be a serviceable QB and take the Rams to the playoffs. The Rams made it known that he was their guy from the start by signing him to a two year extension before ever playing snap for the team, a move that is now highly criticized in the NFL world. Now the Rams are once again in the position of having to find a someone to be the first QB of the Los Angeles Rams since the 1990s. With Kirk Cousins receiving the franchise tag in Washington, and Sam Bradford signing a 2 year $36 million deal to stay with the Eagles, what other moves could help shore up the Rams biggest weakness?
Option 1: Do Nothing, Acquire More Offensive Talent
The first option is pretty simple, and that is to do nothing at all. Jeff Fisher has not been shy in saying that Case Keenum is LA’s guy moving into 2016. While Keenum was arguably the best QB of the five post-Bradford era starters, that isn’t saying much. To his credit, he played a couple of nice games (specifically his perfect passer rated game in week 15 against Tampa Bay) and went 3-2 as the starter in 2015, and arguably came a concussion and a blocked field goal away from going 5-0 as the starter. Many think if the Rams invest their first round pick on a true number one wide receiver, such as Laquon Treadwell, and spend their remaining cap space, roughly $44 million after tagging CB Trumaine Johnson, on retaining their key defensive free agents, Keenum will have decent enough passing weapons to go along with a ferocious defense and running game to help bring the Rams to the post season.
Option 2: Trade for Jimmy Garoppolo
Could the Rams go right back to the trade market to find their QB solution just one year after the Bradford-Foles blockbuster? I don’t see why not. It is unknown as of now if Garoppolo will be made available via trade, but after signing Tom Brady to a two year extension, it seems as though Garoppolo will need to relocate if he wants to start any time soon. Garoppolo was a 2nd round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, and shot up draft boards late in the draft process to where people thought he could possibly squeeze into the first round, despite coming from small school Eastern Illinois. Many players who come into the NFL from small schools would serve well with a year or two to develop and learn the complexity and speed of the NFL. Garoppolo being drafted by the Patriots was possibly the best thing that could have happened for him. He now has had two years to adjust his game to the speed of the NFL, and has been mentored by arguably the greatest QB of all time, Tom Brady, and arguably the greatest coach of all time, Bill Belichick. Garoppolo getting time to learn under an all time great QB could reap the same rewards Aaron Rodgers saw from sitting under Brett Favre to start his career, and help him potentially become a top 10 NFL QB. If the Patriots are willing to deal Garoppolo, the Rams could make a run at him and offer 2nd or 3rd round picks in hopes of landing the potential star.
Option 3: Trade Up and Draft Jared Goff or Carson Wentz
The vibe in the league right now is that either North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or California’s Jared Goff will be drafted by the Cleveland Browns with the number two overall pick. However, unless the Cowboys decide they want to draft a QB to groom for life after Tony Romo, one of the two should at least last until the San Francisco 49ers are on the clock at the number seven overall pick. Unless someone trades up. The Rams are a strong possibility to trade up, as they have the need and the ammo to make the move and secure their QB of the future. Of the two, Goff is more polished, but Wentz has the higher upside. If the Rams can find a deal similar to the deal they made with Buffalo in 2013 to move up and secure offensive weapon Tavon Austin, they should pounce on it.
Option 4: Stay Put, Draft Paxton Lynch in 1st or Connor Cook in 2nd… and Sign Peyton Manning
Crazy right? The Rams not only draft their QB of the future, but they also sign their QB of the now. Memphis’ Paxton Lynch and Michigan State’s Connor Cook are both great talents, but realistically, neither will be ready to play come the start of the 2016 season, that is where Peyton comes into play. While Manning is a shell of his old self, he still would be an upgrade over what LA has now, and would be a big headline for their first season back in LA. Similar to how Brady has groomed Garoppolo, Manning could arguably be an even better mentor to Lynch or Cook. Manning has always been known for his ability to read defenses at the line of scrimmage, and make the proper audibles to counter what he is seeing. For him to be able to teach either of those young QBs mental aspects of the game, such as the ability to read the defense as well as he has for nearly 20 years, as well as give them tips to help their physical game, then this could be a match made in heaven. Manning can help Lynch get up to speed of the complexity of NFL playbooks after playing in a primarily simple one read spread offense at Memphis, or he could help Cook learn how to be the leader of a team, after he wasn’t voted a team captain for his final season at Michigan State. Should Manning not retire, there is already heavy speculation that he will wind up in LA, but getting both Manning and a highly talented QB in the draft could become the most genius move of the offseason, by any team.
Option 5: Sign a Free Agent
The final option is simply finding a QB on the free agent market. With both Cousins and Bradford off the market, however, it is slim pickings. The top two remaining QBs are the Denver Broncos’ Brock Osweiler and the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick, and while either of them would be good signings, neither are expected to leave their current team, nor are guarantees to put up another good season. After those two, the only other intriguing option is Robert Griffen III. In 2012, the Redskins traded three firsts and a second to acquire the number two overall pick and draft RG3. Now, in an ironic turn of events, RG3 could wind up with the team who essentially traded him four years ago, in a low risk high reward signing with the Rams, and a chance for him to prove he still has what it takes to play in the NFL.