ProFootballTalk.com is reporting that there are rumors making their way around the league that Sam Bradford will not negotiate a pre-draft contract with the St. Louis Rams in hopes of going to a different team. I am skeptical of most draft rumors that surface this time of year because every team not only plays their cards close to the vest, but agents leak information to help their clients. This could very well be information that was leaked by another team that wants Bradford, or more likely this is the doing of Bradford’s agent.
The Rams have started to negotiate with a handful of players that they are considering with the first pick, which is a common practice. By negotiating with multiple players they hope to get a player to take a smaller contract for the prestige that goes with being the first overall pick. The Dolphins did this with Jake Long two years ago. My guess is Bradford’s agent is trying generate leverage against the Rams by acting like his client does not want to be drafted by them. If the Rams are set on drafting Bradford and he refuses to negotiate, the only thing the Rams can do to change his mind is offer more money. If his agent feels that the Rams are dead set on drafting Bradford, this is the best way to get them to stop trying to leverage the agents for the other players against each other and only deal with him.
I think this is all a ploy, but if this rumor is true, what does it mean for the Lions? If the rumor is true, the agent wouldn’t make this type of move unless he was sure a team would either trade up or draft him within the top five picks. Quarterbacks get the benefit of the ”quarterback premium” when it comes to their contracts. Matt Ryan signed for more money than Jake Long even though he was picked after Long. So it’s possible that Bradford’s agent has a team or teams that have said they will agree to a higher contract to get Bradford. What makes this beneficial to the Lions is they would be the team that is most likely to be involved in the trade.
Now that this rumor is out, the Rams will have a difficult time trading out of the number one pick. If everybody knows that they want Bradford, but he won’t do a deal, they lose leverage in the trade. The Rams can’t take a below market trade or their organization looks weak for allowing a player to dictate how they make their pick. This makes the Lions the logical trade partner. What makes it more interesting is the timing of this rumor comes days after Martin Mayhew said he feels very confident that there will be an opportunity to trade down. Whatever team that is interested in Bradford would most likely be the team that has negotiated with the Lions.
If the Rams decide to call Bradford’s bluff like the Chargers did with Eli Manning and draft Bradford, they are taking a far bigger risk than the Chargers did back in 2004. The Chargers didn’t lose much leverage in the trade because they already had a willing trading partner and were just haggling over trade compensation. The Rams are in a far weaker position than the Chargers were in 2004. The Rams are on the verge of being sold, they couldn’t sell out games last year, their fan base is weak after one of the worst three year stretches in NFL history. The last thing they can afford is a messy public contract battle with the new face of the franchise or taking a below market deal. If Bradford won’t sign, their best bet is to go a different route and say they were never interested in the first place.
If this rumor is true, Lions options just got a lot better. The most likely team to trade up would be Washington because they only have to come up two slots which wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. The Lions would get to trade back to the fourth pick and would potentially still get a shot at the three players I believe they are interested in. The Rams would most likely take Ndamukong Suh or possibly Jimmy Clausen first, the Redskins would take Bradford second, the Bucs would take Gerald McCoy at three and the Lions would have Russell Okung, Trent Williams and maybe even Suh sitting there at the fourth pick.
Like I said before, I don’t think this is anything more than a rumor by Bradford’s agent in hopes of gaining leverage in negotiations, but if this thing does have legs, it should benefit the Liosn greatly.