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Rams have another difficult quarterback contract to navigate

The Chargers are still basking in the glow of clinching a playoff spot, and Florio and Simms think that could spell trouble against their crosstown rivals who've found some momentum with Baker Mayfield at the helm.

After the Rams made it to the Super Bowl four years ago, they decided to give their starting quarterback a contract that they quickly came to regret. After winning the Super Bowl last year, the same thing may have happened.

The glass-half-full Rams would never dare to admit that, in hindsight, they may have given Matthew Stafford too good of a deal, and that they currently are facing a damned-if-they-do-damned-if-they-don’t decision on Stafford’s future.

Stafford has said he’s not retiring. Why would he? On March 19, another $57 million in compensation becomes fully guaranteed. And that’s after the Rams gave him $61.5 million in 2022.

Stafford is good, when he has enough time to get rid of the ball. And when he has a running game. And when he can avoid taking the kinds of hits that get him injured. This year was a disaster for Stafford and the Rams.

But what can they do? A trade before March 19, when the $57 million vests, would trigger a $48 million cap charge. Cutting him with a post-June 1 designation before March 19 would result in $12 million hitting the cap this year, and $36 million in 2024.

Those are the only alternatives to keeping Stafford. And, if he’s still unable to pass a physical by the middle of March due to the spinal cord contusion that ended his 2022 season prematurely, they wouldn’t be able to trade him or cut him anyway.

If he’s healthy, though, what do they do? Considering the broad range of available veteran quarterbacks for 2023, would they throw $57 million in good money after what may have been a bad investment of $61.5 million -- especially as the Rams continue to navigate the rocky aftermath of their all-in, “eff them picks” quest for a Super Bowl win?

The Rams may be looking at another year or two or more of struggles. Why pay so much to a quarterback who is about to be 35? And it feels like an old 35, given the various injuries he’s had both in Detroit and L.A.

The Rams would surely scoff at the prospect of moving on from Stafford, the same way they scoffed at the prospect of not giving Goff a second contract that they later escaped only by tucking an extra first-round pick into the Stafford trade package.

The point here isn’t that they should move on from Stafford. The point is that they need to sit down and make a conscious, strategic decision about whether to commit another $57 million to Stafford.

As part of that process, they need to remove the blue-and-gold-colored glasses and objectively assess where they currently are, where they’re heading, and how they got here.