In a move that comes as no surprise yet nevertheless feels surprising (if that makes any sense and it probably doesn't), Howard Balzer reports via Twitter that Rams quarterback Marc Bulger has cleaned out his locker.
Bulger, a former West Virginia quarterback who attended the same high school as Dan Marino, entered the league in 2000 as a sixth-round pick of the Saints. He ultimately landed with the Rams, where he rose to prominence as the successor to Kurt Warner.
But once Bulger cashed in with a big contract, his passer rating plunged from the 90s to the 70s. Three seasons later, the Rams simply can't justify paying Bulger $8.5 million in 2010, given that neither G.M. Billy Devaney nor coach Steve Spagnuolo had any role in acquiring Bulger or financially rewarding him.
So if Bulger is released before March 5, he'll hit the free-agent market before the market officially opens, giving agent Tom Condon plenty of time to find a new home for him.
How about a reunion with former Rams coach Mike Martz in Chicago? As Martz learned in 1999, the guy at the top of the depth chart in August might not be the guy who's holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. So if Jay Cutler takes a helmet to the knee in the preseason, the Bears will need someone other than whoever it is that backs up Cutler.
And that should be good for about 20 e-mails telling us who it is, and one or two identifying the number Ike Hilliard wore in Tampa. (Only founding members of PFT Planet will get that one.)
Jeff Roberson AP
There's a pretty big gulf between cleaning out your locker and being outright released by the team. However, many expect the Rams to part ways with Bulger this offseason. I don't believe there are any sort of roster bonus due in Bulger's contract, which means there is no extra incentive for the Rams to release Bulger prior to the March 5 whistle for free agency. I suspect, as the PFT link alludes, that it might be more of a courtesy similar to what the team did in releasing Torry Holt and Orlando Pace earlier than necessary last season that gives Bulger more time to find a new team.
I still would not rule out the possibility of the Rams having some interest in bringing Bulger back at a reduced rate and not handing him the starting job. With free agency what it is in these no-cap times, finding a QB is no easy task, and cutting Bulger leaves the Rams with just one QB on the roster: 2009 sixth round pick Keith Null.
Now this is really getting into tea leaf reading, but I think if the Rams don't bring Bulger back it makes drafting a QB more likely, a first round QB that is. Even if the Rams do follow the rumors and chase Michael Vick and his sub-60 percent career completion percentage, he's not a long-term solution or even a guarantee to start in 2010. Mostly, I think it's just an issue of need. Without Bulger, you've got Null and maybe Vick, two relative unknowns and probably not the answers for the future. A first round QB is a much better candidate to step into the fold should Vick or Null keep the Rams from being as competitive as possible.
Either way, keep an eye on the Bulger situation, locker cleanups don't necessarily mean anything in and of themselves. Maybe he just needs an extra bottle of Head and Shoulders for home?