EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After listening to St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher talk Tuesday afternoon, a muddled quarterback position gained a little bit of clarity in terms of what the plan is moving forward.
Part of that plan includes retaining veteran signal caller Sam Bradford. In their ideal world, the Rams could reduce Bradford's $16.58 million salary cap number for 2015 by bringing him back on a more team-friendly deal. Beyond that, the Rams plan to add competition at the position, either via free agency or through the draft.
How all of that plays out remains to be seen, but now would be as good a time as any to examine what's realistic when it comes to Bradford's return. For a player who hasn't played a regular season NFL game since Oct. 20, 2013, one would think the cost of keeping him around won't be too strenuous against a salary cap.
But that's probably assuming too much given the dearth of quarterbacks available. For one, the 2015 quarterback class, both in free agency and the draft, is devoid of any surefire franchise quarterbacks.
Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Florida State's Jameis Winston headline a draft class that many analysts believe is one of the worst quarterback groups in some time. Mariota and Winston aren't without flaws and even if the Rams love them, they would likely have to make a move up from their spot at No. 10 to secure one.
The free-agent market is even more bleak. Teams simply don't let good quarterbacks walk away. In a league starved for talent at the position, there doesn't figure to be any worthwhile or proven starters that will hit the market.
Which then begs two questions. What Bradford could get on the open market if he was available? And what is his level of loyalty to the team that drafted him?
"Up until yesterday when we had our exit meetings, I’ve been focused on rehab and our coaching staff has been focused on the season," Bradford said. "It really hasn’t been any talk of the future."
Those talks should start soon, though. When asked if he'd be willing to take a pay cut, Bradford said he would allow his agent, Tom Condon, to handle the business side of things.
From the Rams' side, Fisher didn't answer when asked if there was a consideration for bringing back Bradford on his current contract, but he strongly hinted that it wouldn't be the team's preference.
“I’m not going to go into specifics because we have not had the time to sit down and discuss it," Fisher said. "I appreciate the question, but I’m not going to answer that. I think it would make sense that both sides need to get together and work something out.”
There are those around the league who think Bradford could get more than some might expect. In other words, a reworked deal might cost the Rams something in the $6 million to $8 million range with incentives that could take it up to or past the current base salary of nearly $13 million.
Bradford also made it clear Tuesday that he has much left to prove before his time in St. Louis is done. That doesn't mean he's going to play for free, but he pointed to a sense of unfinished business here as reasons that he'd like to return.
"This is really the first place I have ever been away from home," Bradford said. "I feel like I’ve really grown up here. I love this city. The people have been great. I can’t tell you how much support I’ve got. Whether it’s going out to the gas station seeing people, going out to eat and seeing fans, the people have been really encouraging and supportive so I really do enjoy it here."
The extent of that enjoyment will be put to the test as the Rams and Condon get down to business on what Fisher referred to as the "contractual standpoint" of the equation. Bradford has already earned in excess of $65 million since the Rams drafted him in 2010. In return, the Rams have gotten 18 wins and 59 touchdown passes.
Bradford is a proud guy, the type who isn't afraid to acknowledge he hasn't accomplished what he'd hoped since he entered the league. My sense is that he really would like to return and try to pay the Rams back for their continued commitment to him with plenty of victories.
But when business begins and rubber has to meet road, much like the final year of Bradford's contract, there are no guarantees.