How does the NFL expect teams like the Rams and Lions to compete?

St. Louis Rams newest member, quarterback Sam Bradford, holds up his jersey with head coach Steve Spagnuolo (L) and general manager Billy Devaney as he is introduced to reporters at Rams Park in Earth City, Missouri on April 23, 2010, one day after being selected No. 1 in the first round of the NFL. Bradford played his college football at Oklahoma. UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom

Quick math question to start your Saturday morning: If Sam Bradford is worth $50 million guaranteed, then how much should Peyton Manning make?

I know it’s a tough question, so I’ll throw out some facts to better assist you while you think:

Peyton Manning:

– 50,128 career passing yards
– 366 career passing touchdowns
– 95.2 career passer rating
– 2 Super Bowl appearances, 1 championship

Sam Bradford:

– Went to Oklahoma

Look, nobody blames Bradford for cashing in (six years, $78 million). It’s not like any of us would have said, “You know what, Rams? I haven’t proven anything yet, so to be fair why don’t I just accept a modest starting salary of $40,000-a-year plus dental?”

The system is broken in the NFL and it’s one of the many things that the NFLPA and owners need to resolve before signing a new collective bargaining agreement (assuming they do sign one, of course) in the next couple of months/year. And it’s not just a Bradford vs. Manning financial thing, either.

How can the league expect a team like the Lions to field a competitive roster when they gave quarterback Matthew Stafford over $41 million in guarantees last year and they still have to sign No. 2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh this year? Last year, the Rams signed offensive tackle Jason Smith (the No. 2 overall pick) to a $61.775 million contract worth $33 million in guarantees. Between Bradford and Smith, the Rams now have $83 million in guaranteed money wrapped up in two players.

And they don’t even know if Bradford and Smith can play yet.

Again, how does the league expect teams like the Lions and Rams to compete with the likes of the Colts and Saints when they have to break the bank for unproven players? What happens when Calvin Johnson (a player the Lions actually know can play) needs a new deal in two years? Will the Lions be able to sign him? What if they can’t? They let one of their best players go because they have all of their money tied up into high draft picks?

Talk about a vicious cycle – it needs to end.

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Rams wise to pass on Terrell Owens – will Bengals pursue him?

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 25:  Terrell Owens #81 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before a game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on October 25, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Donnie Avery, Laurent Robinson and Jason Smith are still largely inexperienced.

Sam Bradford, Mardy Gilyard and Rodger Saffold are really inexperienced.

That’s why the Rams’ decision to pass on Terrell Owens today was the correct one. This is a team in rebuilding mode and adding a 37-year-old receiver coming off a bad year and who has a history of criticizing quarterbacks isn’t ideal. Can T.O. still contribute in the right situation? Yes, but not in St. Louis.

Some are quick to point out that T.O. wasn’t a distraction last year in Buffalo. That’s because he couldn’t have been a distraction – the team was awful and so was he. Does anyone really think that he would have kept his mouth shut if he had posted solid numbers week in and week out and the Bills still lost? Not a chance.

The Rams are better off in the long run. Avery, Robinson and Gilyard all of upside – Owens doesn’t. Besides, what’s the best case scenario if the Rams sign T.O.? He plays well and they go 4-12 instead of 2-14? It’s saying a lot that Owens would even be worth two wins, so signing him would almost seem unnecessary for St. Louis.

Cincinnati, however, is a different story. They made the playoffs last year, have a veteran quarterback at the helm and in their offense, they have enough playmakers so that T.O. wouldn’t be the focal point (unlike if he landed in St. Louis). Not to mention, their locker room isn’t as inexperienced as the Rams’ is and one would think that Chad Ochocinco would nullify anything Owens brought to the table in terms of personality. Carson Palmer wouldn’t stand for being treated like a 2-year-old either.

The Bengals are a decent fit for T.O. – the Rams are not. We’ll see if Cincinnati eventually pulls the trigger on a contract for Owens. My guess is they will.

In other Rams-related news, FOX Sports is reporting that the team is close to signing No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford.

If Rams have trouble signing Bradford, they have themselves to blame

St. Louis Rams No.1 draft pick quarterback Sam Bradford (8) runs a play during day one of the Rams rookie camp at the teams practice facility in Earth City on April 30, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom

The Dolphins accomplished the feat two years ago with offensive tackle Jake Long. The Lions were able to do the same thing last year with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

But the Rams decided to wait and now, well who knows. Uncertainty is about to become their best friend over the next couple of weeks.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, when a deal eventually gets done, the guaranteed money in Sam Bradford’s contract will be between $45 million and $50 million. That’s a ton of dough for any franchise to fork over for one player, not to mention one whose owners are in the midst of trying to sell the team.

Of course, this could have been avoided had the Rams struck a deal with Bradford before the draft. They had more leverage then and certainly more options. While they wanted and needed a franchise quarterback most of all, if they knew that signing Bradford would be an issue (or they weren’t prepared to hand him $50 million in guaranteed money), they could have selected Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.

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Sam Bradford to command $50 million guaranteed?

An report by Adam Schefter says that Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will command in the range of $50 million in guaranteed money when he signs as the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s draft.

The contract for the No. 1 overall pick will likely be staggering. Bradford’s contract is expected to pay him an average of $13 million a season with roughly $50 million in guaranteed money. These figures are based on the past two drafts, when Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford were the first quarterbacks picked.

Two years ago, the Falcons’ Ryan received $34 million in guaranteed money on a deal that averages $11 million a season. Stafford, who was picked No. 1 last season by the Lions, received $42 million in guaranteed money on his deal, which averages $12 million a season.

It’s no secret that the rookie salary structure is completely ludicrous in the NFL and it’s something that the league will eventually have to change or else it’ll keep getting worse. A player that has never once stepped on the field should never command more money than anyone on the team’s current roster. It just doesn’t make any sense.

That said, Bradford might as well cash in when he can. If the owners and player’s union come together on a new CBA deal for next season, one of the items that might be changed is the salary structure for rookies. Commissioner Roger Goodell is on record saying that the league could make a change, but he’s going to need the approval of the player’s union first, which could prove to be a high hurdle to jump.

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