When the then St. Louis Rams traded for Nick Foles before the 2015 season, fans hoped to see him return to his Pro Bowl form from. Unfortunately, Foles was the farthest thing from that in 2015, and the Rams are back at square one at the quarterback position. Here are five options for the Rams to consider before making a decision at quarterback:
1. Trade for Colin Kaepernick – Colin Kaepernick has to be the best available quarterback on the market right now strictly in terms of talent. In the 39 games he started between 2012 to 2014, Kaepernick threw for 8,174 yards, 50 touchdowns and just 21 interceptions. He also added 1,401 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Kaepernick had a 60% completion rate during this stretch and has proven that he can win with talent around him. He gave the 49ers a spark in 2012, which resulted in two NFC title game appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl. Kaepernick is a smart, mobile quarterback that can win you some games with a solid team around him.
He had a rough 2015 campaign, but I attribute this partially to how big of a mess the 49ers were as a whole last season. They fired the coach that put all his faith in Kaepernick and failed to bring back most of the talent on the roster. It wasn’t a situation that was set up for Kaepernick to succeed. With the right weapons, I think he’ll perform closer to the 2013 version of himself.
However, Kaepernick is probably going to take the most for the Rams to acquire out of any quarterback on the market. The biggest problem is that he plays for a division rival that may not even want to trade him. Kaepernick has requested a trade, and the 49ers have not stated if they will honor his request, but it’s hard to imagine them turning down an offer if the price is right. He also has a large yet team-friendly contract. His contract runs through 2020, but can be voided before April in each year, 1st barring an injury. If the Rams aquire Kaepernick, and he returns to old form, the contract would likely be worth it. Then again, the same thing was said when Nick Foles signed an extension during the 2015 preseason.
2. Sign Robert Griffin III – Recently cut Robert Griffin III is a player that has shown he can be a successful quarterback at this level, and will likely have a chip on his shoulder the size of the sun going into the 2016 season. Given the last few years of his career, Griffin probably won’t demand a lot of money. If the Rams can get him on a cheap, low risk deal, he’s absolutely worth taking a chance on.
Griffin’s career has been a disaster since winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. He was rushed back from a season-ending injury for the start of the 2013 season and wasn’t the same player. When 2014 rolled around, new Redskins head coach Jay Gruden didn’t have much faith in Griffin, and he was quickly benched for Kirk Cousins. He didn’t appear in a single game in 2015.
So why is Griffin even worth taking a chance on? Well, he’s one of the few quarterbacks on the market that has proven at some point in his career he can dominate this game at a high level. Griffin’s rookie season was sensational, and he’s been battling injuries in a dysfunctional organization ever since. Could his rookie season have been a fluke? Absolutely. But could his rookie season have been a better showing of his talents than the past three years have been? That’s also a strong possibility. If the Rams can get him on a low-risk salary and keep Case Keenum around as a backup plan, I’m all for taking a shot on Griffin.
3. Bring Back Ryan Fitzpatrick – Ryan Fitzpatrick has had one of the stranger career paths of any quarterback in NFL history. After appearing in just six games during his three-year tenure with the Rams, Fitzpatrick played for five different NFL teams, most notably four in the last four years. With the rumors that Fitzpatrick and the New York Jets aren’t going to be able to agree on a contract, it may end up being five teams in five years. Bringing Fitzpatrick back to the team he began his career with might be a bad solution.
Fitzpatrick has produced an up-and-down career, but he’s coming off the best season of his life in the NFL. He posted career highs in yards and touchdowns, with 31 touchdowns as opposed to 15 interceptions. He’s not a flashy option at quarterback, especially for a team who may be looking for a spark having relocated to Los Angeles, but Fitzpatrick has proved that he’s talented enough to be a starting quarterback in this league. He’d be a great interim quarterback while the Rams either develop a backup like Sean Mannion or look for somebody in future drafts.
4. Take a Quarterback in the First Round of the 2016 NFL Draft – Drafting a quarterback in the first round has the most upside out of any option on this list, but is also the riskiest. Taking a quarterback that early means that the Rams can’t spend that pick on a different need on the team. It also means that this player now has the pressure of being a franchise quarterback. Sure, this works sometimes. But teams often swing and miss with first round quarterbacks, something that a relocating franchise cannot afford right now. Since 2006, every single draft with the exception of 2008 (Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco) and 2015 (Jameis Winston and Marcus Marriota) has had a first round quarterback turn out to be a complete bust. Guys like Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel set teams back hard at this position.
All this being said, this is the option that may get fans the most excited. Many teams have struck gold by taking a quarterback in the first round. The biggest names in this years draft are California’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. If these guys are on the board when the Rams draft at 15, they’re absolutely worth considering. But any other quarterbacks in the draft may be a reach that early.
I do not believe that the Rams should take a quarterback after the first round in this draft, unless somebody like Paxton Lynch or Christian Hackenberg falls far below their projected draft slot. The Rams already have a third round quarterback in second year player Sean Mannion. This is a team that has plenty of needs and doesn’t need to add another mid round developmental quarterback to the roster. Which leads us into our fifth and final option…
5. Start Case Keenum and Develop Sean Mannion – The Rams may not even need to upgrade the quarterback position at all this offseason. If the Rams spend their cap space on the right players and draft well, it isn’t the end of the world if they decide to roll with Case Keenum and Sean Mannion.
Describing Case Keenum is simple: he’s fine. He’s not a great quarterback, but he’s not a bad one either. He may not always be able to throw you back into a game, but he probably won’t throw you out of a game. He can’t run the option like Cam Newton can, but he’s mobile enough to avoid sacks and keep plays alive. He’s just fine. He proved during his stint as the Rams starter that he won’t be the sole reason we lose games. During his 3-1 stretch to end the season, he threw just one interception, completed roughly 65% of his passes, and posted a 91 quarterback rating. He’s an elite backup in this league and may actually make a decent transitional quarterback.
One of the biggest keys to convincing fans that rolling with Keenum is for the Rams to show that they have faith Sean Mannion can be the guy. Mannion only saw action in one game in 2015, but he completed 6 of 7 passes for 31 yards, a promising stat line. He’s stands at 6’6, giving him elite size at this position. The Rams knew Mannion was a project when they drafted him, and if they have faith that he can be the franchise quarterback, why not continue to develop him?
Steve Rebeiro is a staff writer for Rams Talk and an undergraduate student at Marquette University. For more of his opinions, follow him on Twitter here.