The St. Louis Rams have reportedly given quarterback Sam Bradford permission to seek a trade, presumably with a team that would start him and give him every chance to succeed in the 2015 season before he becomes a free agent in 2016. Rams GM Les Snead isn't crazy about the idea, but if the conversation gets started, the Buffalo Bills could be near the top of the list of teams contacted by Bradford's agent. Would such a deal be wise for either or both parties?
For Bradford, Buffalo appears to be an ideal situation. They offer a wide receiving tandem that puts anything the Rams put together in the last five years to shame with Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. They also have a defense that can keep the team in games against even the best quarterbacks in the league, and one of the easiest paths for a quarterback to find a starting job in the NFL, with only EJ Manuel standing in the way for now.
The biggest hiccup from Bradford's perspective would be Buffalo's offensive line, which was among the worst in the NFL last season. The team has heavily invested in this unit via its draft picks in the last couple years, though, and If Greg Roman can build the power running scheme he wants, that could relegate the line a problem of the past, and it could be the best opportunity Bradford has had in his career to excel.
For the Bills, a potential trade is a tricky prospect. While acquiring Bradford should likely come only at the cost of a mid-to-low round draft pick, that's largely because Bradford is due $16.5 million in 2015 before he becomes a free agent the following offseason.
If the Bills are serious about taking on Bradford's salary, they would be committing roughly half of their cap space available to his figure. The team would almost certainly have to say good bye to defensive end Jerry Hughes, who is likely seeking a contract that pays north of $10 million per year, as well as most high-end free agents set to become available in March. The team wouldn't be crippled by Bradford's salary, but the rest of Buffalo's roster wouldn't take a huge step forward as a result of his cap number.
But let's say the money is fine. After all, the team definitely has the cap space to absorb Bradford's salary this year, and their hole at quarterback is by far the most concerning area of the roster. They could re-negotiate terms next summer if they liked what they saw of Bradford, and that cap figure would likely be lower than what Bradford gets paid in 2015.
Beyond the cap figures and salary concerns, would the trade price be acceptable? That's where the true evaluation of any possible trade begins and ends. Acquiring Bradford is a fine move for Buffalo to make, even with a few cap casualties. But if Snead doesn't want to move Bradford, he could prefer to try and exact a hefty price from Buffalo, which would be unacceptable.
In truth, the Bills should not be giving up more than a fourth-round pick in any trade for Bradford. They don't have a fourth-round pick in this draft, anyway, so they would likely be looking at 2016 draft picks or lower picks in this year's draft. Bradford's salary is onerous, and he's no lock to re-sign in Buffalo after one season, which will greatly diminish his value around the league. There's also the matter of his play, which leaves plenty open to debate.
Bradford has struggled with bad injury luck over the past two seasons, but before that he missed only six games in three seasons, all six of which came in his sophomore campaign. In Bradford's third season, his last full 16-game stretch, he tallied 3,702 passing yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Since that 2012 season, Bradford played seven games in 2013, but he posted 14 touchdowns to just four interceptionss in that stretch.
If you believe that the inferior Rams offense has mired evaluation of Bradford, then you could look at those limited, decidedly pedestrian numbers and figure they could be much worse. After all, the TD-to-INT ratio improved from 2012 to 2013 to at least to a 'game manager' level. The Bills were a nightmare with offensive turnovers in 2014, and to have a quarterback who protects the ball would be an upgrade in its own right.
You can interpret the first five years of Bradford's career in any number of ways, but it's hard to argue that he isn't considerably better than any quarterback the team could find in free agency or in the 2015 NFL Draft. For that reason alone, the Bills would be wise to pursue Bradford and add him to the roster, provided they don't have to part with any major assets in so doing.