Five options for Rams after losing Bradford

Maybe he is an upgrade over Kellen Clemens, but the more poignant question for the St. Louis Rams is whether the franchise can compete in the rugged NFC West with Shaun Hill manning the controls.

Maybe he is an upgrade over Kellen Clemens, but the more poignant question for the St. Louis Rams is whether the franchise can compete in the rugged NFC West with Shaun Hill manning the controls.

In 12 NFL seasons, Hill has played 34 games (26 starts). He completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 6,381 yards, 41 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and an 85.9 passer rating.

With Clemens, the Rams went 4-5 last season following Sam Bradford's season-ending knee injury in 2013.

Head coach Jeff Fisher said Sunday, on the day the team learned Bradford would miss the entire season with a torn ACL in the same knee, that Hill is the guy for the Rams.

"He's ready for it. He's ready for the challenge, ready for the opportunity. He has a great feel for the offense right now, and we're going to move forward with it," Fisher said. "We're not going to change anything. He knows the system. Again, everybody knows we're going to run the football first. We're going to do that, and we've got to do that well and we've got to do that to start the season. Everything else will come off of that."


When the emotion of Bradford's loss wears off and the Rams have time to take the long view of the 2014 season, will the answer be the same?

Here are five options general manager Les Snead might consider:

1. Trade for Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles

Draft picks are nearly untradable assets in this building. They've built a roster of home-grown draft picks. Note eight likely defensive starters were picked in the first three rounds by the Rams. Sanchez signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Eagles coming off of a season-ending shoulder injury and offseason knee surgery. He seems to be finding a second life in Chip Kelly's offense, completing 25 of 31 passes (80.6 percent) with two touchdowns in three preseason games, albeit against mostly backup defenders. Sanchez would bring the benefit of knowing Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's playbook plus a grasp of St. Louis' approach to win with defense.

Don't doubt the Eagles would deal Sanchez. Matt Barkley is in the stable behind Nick Foles and there is rampant speculation around the league the Philadelphia will find a way to make a run at current Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota when he decides to make the NFL leap.

If the Eagles want to stash Sanchez as Foles' backup, Barkley could be a consideration for the Rams.

2. Trade for Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

Ponder is available, and easily attainable, with more starting experience -- 35 games -- than Hill. The Rams might be willing to roll the dice that he'll be released, banking on the sales pitch of potential playing time given their predicament of 34-year-old journeyman backup being forced into a starting job. Ponder is cemented as the No. 3 quarterback with the Vikings and as a former first-round pick, there will always be general managers who believe talented players are just one change of scenery away from figuring it all out.


3. Trade for Ryan Mallett, New England Patriots

The Rams should be lukewarm on Mallett. He has four career NFL completions going into his fourth season with the Patriots and in extended opportunities in preseason, failed to impress. His former position coach, current Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien, resisted parting with anything of value to bring Mallett to town.

4. Give Kyle Orton a ring

Orton's $3 million contract squabble with the Dallas Cowboys might be an obstacle and there is a reasonable debate whether he would represent a tangible upgrade over Hill.

There is a broad body of work to consider with Orton, 31, a statuesque pocket passer who had Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to turn to in his 30-of-46, 358-yard game Week 17, a loss to the Eagles that turned on his final-possession interception.

Who knows when Orton last threw a football and how much time he would need to get his feet beneath him with the Rams.

5. Wait and see

By early October, lines in the water for current starters could be fruitful.


Not cream-of-the-crop starters, but veterans who might be unseated by established starters in waiting. Think Matt Cassell, who isn't long for the lead role with the Minnesota Vikings, or Chad Henne, the named caddy for 2014 third overall pick Blake Bortles.

It's possible Hill surprises the masses and with a softer schedule out of the gate -- Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Dallas before a bye week -- the defense could carry the Rams through the first month of the season.

The real decision comes at the end of the season, when Bradford will be close to full strength. He is under contract until 2016 as part of a $74 million contract with $50 million guaranteed. The Rams pushed all of their chips into Bradford's corner in 2014, passing on Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Bridgewater in the draft and veteran options including Michael Vick, Brandon Weeden, Sanchez and Cassel.


By Jeff Reynolds, The Sports Xchange

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