ORLANDO, FLA. • Yes, Rams coach Jeff Fisher expressed some “interest” in Mark Sanchez as a potential backup quarterback. But if you’re waiting for the Sanchez to arrive in St. Louis, don’t hold your breath.
At face value, the connection seems logical because of Sanchez’s ties to Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
Schottenheimer held the same title with the New York Jets during the Sanchez’s first three seasons in the NFL.
“I’d say there is interest,” Fisher told USA Today on Sunday. “I can’t say how much. I do not have a backup with experience right now.”
The key words there were “I can’t say how much.”
If the Rams were hot-and-heavy about pursuing Sanchez, those words wouldn’t have been there. In fact, league sources say the team never contracted Sanchez’s representatives.
Those who know Fisher well also know that he never would say anything to diminish a player’s value in the open market. So Fisher might have just been being polite.
Now if Sanchez languishes on the open market, perhaps the Rams get involved. But the Rams were under the impression that Sanchez was going off the market quickly— and reports later on Monday indicated that he was expected to sign with Philadelphia.
All along, there would have been questions to answer in terms of projected role and money with Sanchez and the Rams.
As long as Sam Bradford is in St. Louis, Bradford will be the team’s starting quarterback. And Sanchez probably would want at least a chance to be a starter in his new city. If that city indeed turns out to be Philadelphia, as impressive as Nick Foles was last season there’s not much of a sample size in terms of his work there.
As for the money, the Rams aren’t spending much this offseason. Before his release, Sanchez was due to make $9 million in base salary from the New York Jets. Obviously, Sanchez won’t make $9 million this year with his new team. There will be a hefty pay cut wherever he goes, but he should make more elsewhere than he could expect from the Rams.
(As an example, a two-year, $3 million deal with San Diego, including a $645,000 signing bonus, was too much for the Rams to try to keep Kellen Clemens.)
The Rams’ top choice for the backup job still appears to be Detroit free agent Shaun Hill, who visited Rams Park a week ago. Several years ago, Hill worked with Rams quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti in San Francisco, so there’s a good connection there. In addition, a job with the Rams would practically be in Hill’s backyard because the Kansas native has a home in the Lake of the Ozarks area.
Hill came and left St. Louis without a contract last week, which is usually a sign that the team and the player are apart on money. Even assuming that’s the case there’s another factor at play. Namely, Hill had offseason foot surgery and might not be able to throw when the spring practices begin in May. So that could be slowing things with the Rams as well.
All indications are that Bradford’s rehab from knee surgery is going well, and the Rams hope he will be ready to participate in practices in late May or early June. Even if that’s the case, that leaves only Austin Davis throwing at the start of the practice period at this time because Davis and Bradford are the only quarterbacks on the roster.
The team is expected to add a rookie QB at some point in the draft, but in the spring at least three QBs are needed to handle the throwing demands of the 90-man offseason roster.
Sanchez officially was released Monday, with the designation of “failed physical” on the NFL transactions report. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during the 2013 preseason. Before that, the No. 5 overall draft pick in 2009 had started 62 games in his first four seasons with the Jets.
Under the Billy Devaney/Steve Spagnulo regime, the Rams showed some interest in Sanchez before the ’09 draft. Devaney met with Sanchez during the NFL owners meetings that March in southern California. Sanchez also made a pre-draft visit to Rams Park.
On the night before the draft, word “leaked” that the Rams had made airplane reservations for Sanchez to come to St. Louis after the first day of the draft. It turned out the airline reservation “report” was just a smokescreen, trying to stir up interest in a possible trade-down by the Rams. With no takers, the Rams ended up selecting offensive tackle Jason Smith with the No. 2 overall pick.
The Jets advanced to the AFC title game in each of Sanchez’s first two seasons in the league. But the Jets relied more on a stout defense and one of the league’s top running games than on Sanchez.
Sanchez was average at best in New York, with a passer rating of 71.7, a completion percentage of 55.1, and more interceptions (69) than touchdown passes (68) from 2009-2012. He also had 43 fumbles in those four seasons, including 20 lost fumbles. Among other things, Sanchez’s maturity and devotion to the game were questioned as a Jet.