CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Even before the St. Louis Rams made it official that quarterback Sam Bradford would miss the rest of the 2013 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the speculation about possible replacements began running rampant.
All the usual suspects from Tim Tebow to Vince Young to former Ram Austin Davis, among others, were tossed out as possibilities. But before we dive into the options, there are a few things that should probably be established first.
First, whoever the Rams bring in will almost certainly be the backup to veteran Kellen Clemens, at least in the short term. Clemens knows coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's offense and started games in Bradford's stead in 2011.
The Rams have almost no cap flexibility to work with, which means they'd either have to find a way to save some money by restructuring a contract or releasing someone, or they'll have to settle for a younger, cheaper option.
The Rams under general manager Les Snead have proved time and again that giving up draft picks is not something they enjoy doing. Considering that many of the quarterbacks they could trade for might exceed the cap space they have available it may not matter, but it would be surprising if the Rams gave up a pick of any sort for a short-term replacement who might only be a marginal upgrade over Clemens or possible free-agent additions.
All of that said, it really doesn't matter who the team brings in. Few teams in the league are blessed with strong backups in the first place, so you can only imagine what kind of production you're going to get from a player on the street or a different practice squad nearly halfway through the season. This is likely to be a lost season regardless.
In an Insider piece here on ESPN.com, Tom Carpenter rounded up some of the various rumors and options that have been floated since the rumor mill started churning.
Let's start with Tebow and Young, two polarizing options with well-known names and impressive college résumés. Tebow is an unlikely fit given his inability to throw accurately, and his addition certainly wouldn't help the Rams develop their corps of young receivers. Young and Rams coach Jeff Fisher didn't exactly get along famously in Tennessee, making that match unlikely also.
For possible trades, Minnesota's Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel can probably be had, and Cleveland may be willing to part ways with Brandon Weeden. Washington has Kirk Cousins but he carries the most value of potential trade targets and Washington may not even be willing to deal him, let alone for the type of bargain-basement price the Rams would offer, if they'd offer anything at all. As mentioned above, a trade seems unlikely no matter what because of the team's lack of cap space and aversion to giving up draft picks for someone who would only be a marginal upgrade, at best.
Next, we can dive into some of the more realistic options on the free-agent market, the type of players who could actually be had for cheaper prices without having to give up anything in terms of trade compensation. Former Ram Austin Davis would seem a logical candidate given his knowledge of the system and the personnel. He's young, cheap and available. Also on the free-agent market are players like John Skelton, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Leinart, Caleb Hanie and Trent Edwards available. Not that any of those players move the needle much but again, we're talking about backup options here.
One other avenue is scouring practice squads around the league. Dennis Dixon is on Buffalo's practice squad and actually worked out for the Rams in 2012 without signing. Cincinnati's Greg McElroy would also make some sense after spending time in Schottenheimer's offense in 2011 when both were with the New York Jets.
As of early Monday afternoon, the Rams hadn't made a decision on who will take Bradford's spot on the roster nor had Bradford been officially placed on injured reserve. Given what's available, it's probably best for those waiting on that choice to prepare to be underwhelmed.