Contemplating “Plan B” at Quarterback

Yesterday’s rumored deal between the Rams and Eagles sparked a firestorm of response — perhaps most interestingly during the course of yesterday’s “Fast Lane” show on ESPN Radio, which from 3 pm to 6pm broadcast the entire life cycle of the rumor from birth to death. (Count D’Marco Farr and Brian Stull among the bitterly disappointed that the rumor turned out to be false.)

But as any great liar can tell you, the very best lies always start with a grain of the truth. And I think it’s certainly plausible that the Rams and Eagles have talked quarterbacks. But might the rumor have been focused on the wrong guy?

Shurmur and Kolb on the Eagles practice field

There’s three reasons to think so.

Consider (#1) the very friendly relationship the Rams and Eagles have already established as trading partners. Sports teams tend to have a select number of trade partners, with some clearly having a preferred status. Devaney’s past relationship with the Falcons led to the deal for Laurent Robinson, landed a temporary home for Tye Hill, and unearthed Daniel Fells (currently the Rams’ #1 TE). His past dealings with Philadelphia include the hiring of Pat Shurmur, as well as the acquisition of Brandon Gibson and pick for Will Witherspoon, and the signings of Danny Amendola and Lajuan Ramsey.

Consider (#2) the Pat Shurmur factor — he worked closely with McNabb, Feeley (currently the Rams’ slated backup) and Kevin Kolb. If the Rams want to follow a plan on offense, committing to a player that Shurmur is totally comfortable with, and that was reared in his system, makes perfect sense. And according to a report on the Eagles official site, the price tag for Eagles QBs has dropped.

The story goes on to say that “the Eagles apparently have lowered their price for either McNabb or Kolb. Once thought to be insistent on a first-round pick, the Eagles now are looking for a ‘fair’ price – a second-round pick or a combination of high picks, a league source with knowledge of the team’s thought process said.”

— “Team ‘Entertaining’ Offers for QBs

However, for reasons that have been stated, the 33-year-old McNabb doesn’t appear to fit the “window” for the Rams’ next wave of contention. Moreover, with only one year left on his deal, McNabb may or may not be interested in a contract extension with the Rams — and either way the Rams are in a bad spot. If McNabb wants an extension now, he’s asking for the Rams to commit huge dollars, top-five QB dollars, to a guy on the downside of his career. That doesn’t seem to fit the MO. If he just wants to use the Rams as a springboard for his next team, then that leaves us without a quarterback for 2011, unless we also draft Bradford (or whomever), effectively using our top two picks on quarterbacks, one of which we only keep for a year. Not good economic policy.

On the other hand, Philadelphia faces the same decision with Kolb, who is also in his last year under contract. Do they extend him just to keep him on the bench? Or do they commit starter-level dollars to a player that has seen precious little playing time, and now no longer has the benefit of working with his former tutor in Shurmur? The conventional wisdom is that the Eagles front office would prefer Kolb to McNabb, but Reid — an immensely powerful coach with a lot of political capital in the organization and in Philadelphia — prefers McNabb.

Longtime backups who are supposed to be “heir apparents” have as much a mixed history of success as any other pick at quarterback — the guy holding the clipboard for four years might turn out to be the next Aaron Rodgers or Matt Schaub, or he might turn out to be the next Rob Johnson or Bubby Brister. A rebuilding team like the Rams can take a greater risk on such a player than a team with perennial playoff aspirations like the Eagles.

If we take this report at face value, and the asking price is the same for either, Kolb makes more sense for the Rams.

Consider finally #3, that the entire argument against this rumor is based on the assumption that the Rams will draft Bradford — which is based on the assumption that Bradford displays a strong, healthy arm at his Pro Day, four days from now.

Devaney and Demoff have been around the block. They know better than to commit whole hog to a player like Bradford without at least having a backup plan in place. And I refuse to believe that the 33-year-old Feeley is it. Could trading the #33 pick (or a combination of a lower pick and Atogwe) for Kevin Kolb, and drafting Suh first overall, be that backup plan?

Correction: As RamsGab points out, the Rams cannot trade Atogwe since he is not under contract.