<
>

Exploring the Rams' options with Nick Foles

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The NFL offseason isn't even a month old, but the Los Angeles Rams have already made it known that their quarterback situation for 2016 is as clear as mud.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has said that Case Keenum is the team's starter entering the offseason and Nick Foles and Sean Mannion will be around to compete.

“I spoke with Nick," Fisher said after the season. "We’re going to give Nick a chance to compete. There will be competition when we come back, and I think we have a promising young talent in Sean that will be in the mix as well.”

On the other side of that coin, Fisher and general manager Les Snead have both openly acknowledged that they'll continue to search for more talent at the position. It's a must after the Rams finished at the bottom of the league in most major passing categories in 2015.

“Quarterbacks are hard to find, especially good ones," Snead said. "But there are a lot of avenues, whether it’s free agency, the trade market or the draft. And with all that, there’s roses and thorns with each acquisition method for that QB position. But we will always search for that. We will always have a competition."

The first step in making some alterations to the position is finding a quarterback who is better than what the Rams already have in house. As Snead points out, talented quarterbacks don't grow on trees and the competition to acquire the good ones is never lacking.

But if the Rams are able to add a quarterback they like, it also means they'll have to subtract one from the current roster. That's where things get a bit more difficult. Keenum is a restricted free agent but he's also the one the Rams currently have the most faith in, which means they'll bring him back. Mannion is a third-round pick entering his second season and though the Rams believe he needs more work, it's unlikely they'd want to give up on him so soon.

Which brings us to Foles. The Rams wouldn't have much of a decision to make had they not been so needlessly quick to sign Foles to a contract extension before he ever played a snap for the team. They did and now letting Foles go comes with some financial implications.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Foles is due to count $8.75 million against the 2016 salary cap. That includes a $6 million roster bonus that is guaranteed, $1 million of signing bonus proration and $1.75 million in base salary that becomes guaranteed on the fifth day of the new league year. If the Rams released Foles, they'd also have to accelerate the additional $1 million in signing bonus proration he's due in 2017 to this year's cap.

So even if the Rams released Foles before his base salary became guaranteed, it would still be a net hit of $8 million or they could declare him a post-June 1 cut to make it a hit of $7 million.

That's a big hit to take for a team that has as many pending free agents as the Rams, but it might become a necessity if the Rams see a path to making a much-needed improvement at the game's most important position.