For many in the NFL, the start of the free agency period marks the turning over of a new leaf. However, to the Rams' faithful, this Monday start to the offseason looked like every other "new year," marring by questions about Sam Bradford's health, weeping over the "State of the Offensive Line," and feelings of helplessness as other teams plucked top-shelf free agents out of the pool without a peep from the St. Louis brass...
...that was Monday.
Now, it is safe to say that this offseason has been unlike any other in recent memory, sparked by the "blockbuster" trade between the St. Louis Rams and the Philadelphia Eagle. The deal between the Mad Hatter, Chip Kelly, and Jeff Fisher sent Nick Foles, the Eagles' 2015 fourth round pick, and their 2016 second round pick in exchange for the services of Sam Bradford, the Rams 2015 5th round pick, and a conditional 2016 picks that will be determined by Bradford's snap out in Philadelphia.
Since that time, many pundits have broken down the trade, giving their insight on the pros and cons, and even assessing "grades" on the deal. Bleacher Report handed the Eagles a still-passing "D" for the Bradford-Foles trade.
To put it bluntly, Kelly traded a younger, less injury-prone and much cheaper quarterback—plus higher picks—for an older, more injury-prone and much more expensive quarterback in addition to lower picks.
Pete Prisco, at CBS Sports, had a slightly different take on the deal, oddly tossing the Rams a "C-" for their efforts and handing the Eagles a solid "B". Be warned, his arguments are illogical, at best, and Prisco doesn't seem to have a firm grasp on the nuances of the pick exchanges. Here is one of his finer moments:
They decided to get rid of the injury-plagued Bradford for the younger Foles. Both have one year left on their deals, but Bradford's contract is in the $12 million range. Foles is much cheaper at $1.45 million...
With all of the grading excitement in the air, we wanted to take our shot at some way-too-early grades for the "trade of the offseason," so far. However, in order to properly fill out the report card, we have to break the trade down into it's three essential parts.
As many have already pointed out, the essence of the trade was basically a swap of quarterbacks. On one hand, you have a former Heisman Trophy winner, No.1 overall pick, and Offensive Rookie of the Year. On the other, you have Nick Foles, who comes with his own accolades: 2013 Pro Bowl selection, former 29-2 touchdown-to-interception differential passer, and owner of two healthy knees.
Considering talent and "upside," most would likely hand the crown to Bradford. As we have all seen, when healthy, Bradford has excellent short-to-mid range accuracy, a deceptively strong arm, and the ability to extend plays, when necessary. Alternatively, Foles is considered by most to fall in the "arm cannon" category, with solid, albeit occasionally streaky, deep ball accuracy. However, many scouts have regularly noted him being plagued by sloppy footwork and amateurish progression abilities.
However, as the cliché goes: The greatest ability in the NFL is availability. Foles certainly takes the cake in the realm, despite the freak collar bone injury last season. Our new Napoleon Dynamite stand-in also has unquestionably more "success" in the league, despite having only 20 games under his belt, one of those being an all-elusive playoff game.
Grade: B-. Taking it all into consideration, gaining youth and health, even with losing some "potential" is more than enough for a passing grade. Rams fans may feel jaded if Bradford goes on to accomplish great things (ala Chargers-Brees), but, in the now, St. Louis can mask those feelings with some genuine confidence at the quarterback position headed into the season.
There is no debating that the St. Louis Rams came out as victors in this department. In fact, many would have painted trading Bradford straight-up for only a second-rounder to be a "win." However, not only did the Rams manage an extra Top 64 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, they also swapping their 2015 5th round pick for the Eagles 4th round pick. Double win. To be fair, there is a "catch." Philadelphia gets nothing if Bradford plays over 50% of the Eagles snaps in 2015. However, if Bradford does not play at all this year, they will own the Rams' 2016 3rd round pick. We will have to wait and see on that...
Grade: A. Despite that potential Day 2 pick hanging in the balance, there is nothing to dislike about this move. At the very worst, the Rams will end up swapping up a round in each of the next two drafts. At best, they've added another 2nd round pick to their 2016 NFL Draft arsenal in exchange for a player that would be hitting free agency in 2016 anyways.
In the complicated world of the NFL, trades are rarely as cut and dry as they seem in Adam Schefter's sub-140 character tweets. With those traded players go their contracts, which obviously configure, for better or worse, into the salary cap. As highlighted by Nick Wagoner, moving Bradford to the Eagles moved his $16,580,000 salary off the books. After adjusting for his prorated signing bonus of $3,595,000 and accounting for Nick Foles meager $1,542,000 cap dent, the Rams end up roughly $11,443,000 in the green on this transaction.
That "cap freedom" inevitably paved that way for the St. Louis Rams first major free agent signing of the 2015 offseason; former Detroit Lions' defensive tackle, Nick Fairley. It was announced earlier in the day that the Rams have notching the embattled interior stud to a $5,000,000 "show me" contract, filled with enough incentive to earn Fairley another $2,500,000. Without any additional information on the deal, we can assume the cap hit will equal his contract, leaving the Rams newest member of #SackCity completely covered by the Sam Bradford surplus account, and with a cool $6,443,000 still in the bank.
However, Fairley wasn't the only toy Jeff Fisher and Co. added to Gregg Williams' defensive treasure chest. Last night, the Rams also inked recent Super Bowl-winning outside linebacker/defensive end, Akeem Ayers. While the specifics of the deal have not been released, we do know that it averages to about $3,000,000 per year through 2016. Dipping back into the Bradford account, those math-savvy readers will see that St. Louis can easily cover this cap hit, as well, with $3,443,000 to spare. Enough for a Turf Show Times pizza party? ..or, perhaps, enough to sign Justin Blalock?
Grade: A. Despite your feelings about the actual players the were exchanged, there is little doubt that the Rams came out smelling like a rose in the "other" category. At the end of the day, without considering the additional picks, St. Louis was able to sign two, much-needed defensive assets without having to deplete their pre-free agency cap pool, likely designated for key re-signing and "hopefully* adding another big-name grunt to fill one of the vacancies on the offensive line.
While the initial punch in the gut of Sam Bradford departing St. Louis may have stung many in Rams Nation, including myself, there is no debating who "won" between the Rams and the Eagles in this way-too-early assessment of the Bradford-Foles trade. Not only did the Rams swap hope for (some) confidence heading into the season at quarterback, they swindled valuable draft compensation, and cleared enough space to acquire two solid, starting-caliber defensive talents, without compromising their ability to feasibly complete the rest of their free agency checklist.
Now, let's see what Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have up their sleeve for their encore performance...