With the news Tuesday that St. Louis Rams running back Isaiah Pead was waived/injured, there were some St. Louis fans who were relieved to have the largely unpopular running back off the roster. Unfortunately for that group, the Rams likely will still have Pead on their roster for the rest of this year.
There’s plenty of confusion on the waived/injured rules, as evidenced by this exchange Tuesday between ESPN’s Nick Wagoner, who first reported the story, and Pead’s agent, Rick Smith:
#Rams waive/injured RB Isaiah Pead. But if he clears waivers could be brought back and placed on injured reserve.
— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) August 20, 2014
@nwagoner not could be…will be
— Rick Smith (@RickSmith1956) August 20, 2014
By designating Pead as “waived/injured”, the Rams are exposing Pead to waivers for the other 31 teams in the league, which is the only way to free up his roster spot until the cutdown to 75 players. Usually, teams are respectful and will avoid picking up players who have suffered season-ending injuries during this process. With that said, this “unwritten rule” has been notably violated twice during this year’s training camp, as Carolina Panthers sixth-rounder Tyler Gaffney was claimed by the New England Patriots after the Panthers tried to put him on IR because of a torn meniscus. Later, the Cleveland Browns claimed Seattle Seahawks tackle Michael Bowie after he suffered a shoulder injury.
It’s theoretically possible that Pead could be claimed, but after picking up just 75 yards on 17 carries over his first two years, he probably won’t be exceptionally desirable to other teams. So assuming that Pead goes unclaimed, the Rams will have him on injured reserve this year.
There is the option for the Rams to negotiate an injury settlement with Pead. But because Pead suffered a season-ending torn ACL, there’s no advantage to doing this.
The way injury settlements work, players are paid based on how many games they’re estimated to miss. Since Pead’s going to miss every game, he’s therefore entitled to his full 2014 salary either way. The Rams can release him the day after the season if they so choose—and there’s probably a decent possibility that he will be let go before next year’s draft—but until then there’s no reason to do so. In the mean time, he gets to work with the team doctors and training staff as he recovers from his injury.