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  1. #1
    Bar-bq's Avatar
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    Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    Per the Post-Dispatch, and music to the ears of Ram Nation:

    The Rams are off to a good start in the free-agent shopping mart.

    First, they signed center Jason Brown away from Baltimore. The Rams seem to have the inside track on signing New York Giants strong safety James Butler.

    The Rams also retained two of their top young players by putting the franchise tag on safety O.J. Atogwe and getting cornerback Ron Bartell to agree to a four-year contract.

    I figured they'd lose Bartell once he hit the open market, so securing him with a four-year contract was a significant achievement and a mild upset.

    Again, a team that went 5-27 over the last two seasons didn't reinvent itself with a couple of player signings, but the Rams are making progress.

    Did they spend a lot of money on Brown and Bartell? Sure. And why not? Given their sorry state, should the Rams wallow as bottom feeders in personnel? I don't think so.

    Pat Kirwan of rated Jason Brown as No. 7 overall on his list of top free agents and ranked Brown as the best available offensive lineman. The Rams have been searching for a big, strong, heady center for years. And Brown has that combination. He seems to possess good competitive character, and that's an important addition.

    Brown cost the Rams $37.5 million over five years, with $20 million guaranteed. That's a lot of cash, and a gamble. But the Rams have to take some chances. The new regime at Rams Park can't be meek. What they've done is lessen the risk by putting their money into a younger player who can get even better. Brown is 26, and the Rams are catching him at the most appealing time on his career arc. Brown isn't on the down side; they should receive the best years of his career.

    Besides, have you forgotten about the last few seasons and all of the losing, feuding and chaos? Until general manager Billy Devaney and new head coach Steve Spagnuolo establish credibility by winning, the Rams won't be a destination franchise. They aren't going to have premier players lining up on Earth City Expressway to play here for discount contracts. The lure to pull free agents into Rams Park is money, and lots of it.

    Bartell got a four-year, $28 million deal to stay. The deal contains incentives, so it will probably come in at less than $28 million. This was a smart deal for the Rams. And a necessary one, unless you felt comfortable lining up Tye Hill, Jonathan Wade and Justin King at cornerback in 2009.

    There's been some dissent out there, some talk that you don't give that kind of money to a cornerback unless he's a "shutdown" corner. I'm not sure how one defines "shutdown" corner, but I do know this, courtesy of STATS:

    Last season opponents targeted Bartell 105 times and completed 51 passes on him for a "burn rate" of 48.6 percent, and that's outstanding. Among the NFL cornerbacks who were targeted a minimum of 50 times last season, Bartell's burn rate was the 12th best in the league. He knocked down 19 passes, tied for the sixth-highest total among CBs. Bartell gave up only two touchdown passes, one of the lowest totals of any NFL cornerback.

    Let's compare that 48.6 completion rate against Bartell, and his 19 pass defenses, to the numbers turned in by the other Rams cornerbacks. Combined, the other five Rams CBs were burned on 68 percent of the passes thrown at them and had only 20 pass defenses.

    If Bartell isn't a "shutdown" cornerback, then he did a splendid job of impersonating one last season. The top-rated free agent cornerback, Pittsburgh's Bryant McFadden, was burned at a rate of 62.3 percent last season, not even close to Bartell. And Bartell, 27, is 6-1 and 205 pounds, the kind of size that teams covet in a cornerback. I'm puzzled that there's any debate over this.

    The Rams secondary was brutal last season, but it's foolish to blame Bartell or Atogwe for the incompetent play of teammates. They were gems in 2008.

    If the Rams can get a deal done with Butler, he would upgrade the secondary. He was a sure tackler for the Giants and a first-rate cover guy at strong safety. According to STATS, Butler gave up only 19 completions in 45 passes attempted against him in 2008, and only three full-time strong safeties did better against the pass. Butler's burn rate of 42.2 percent is right up there with the NFL's best strong safety, Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu (41.1 percent).

    Someone at Rams Park obviously did some fine research on the underrated Butler. And the early evidence suggests that the new football guys at Rams Park have a pretty good idea of what they're doing.

  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    If we can improve our front 7 on defense (which I am expecting with Spags at the helm) then the signings of Atogwe and Bartell will really be magnified in a good way.

  3. #3
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    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    Exactly laram0. It's not that we haven't had talent up front, its that it's been mismanaged. We have a strong front four, in my opinion, as Ryan has shown flashes, he just needs to have the opportunity in my mind. As for our LB's, we have two very good ones and need a third, which may or may not be on the roster. I believe that we can have a strong top half defense with little more added beyond depth, we just also need the offense to start executing to let the defense have some rest too.

  4. #4
    Mooselini Guest

    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    This is so exciting.

    After Butler, I don't see any more starters coming through free agency. However, getting Butler will open up another pick we can use in the draft. Who knows, we may even trade Holt or Pace away for a few extra picks.

    All I know is that we finally have football personel in that office.

  5. #5
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    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    we're going to trade for pics, and that probably means signing settersom, and trading Pace. Expect the Rams to draft a OT in the 3rd or 4th round. I also see us going after Ray Lewis. It's probably in the works, but low on the radar. I think Holt stays and we draft a first round receiver. But excellent pick ups by the FO

  6. #6
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    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    In your reference to Ray Lewis: Quote off of

    Ray Lewis reportedly made "exorbitant financial demands" when the Jets came calling on him in free agency.

    The Jets aren't alone. He's made the same demands of the Ravens. Contract talks can be about respect and reward from the players' side, but the fact remains that market value will continue to favor younger players over aging veterans.
    Source: Carroll County Times
    Related: Jets

    So I really do not see our great pair(Billy & Spags) really persuing Ray Lewis

    What say you

  7. #7
    Ramer Guest

    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    I'm pumped! I think this is going to be an exciting team to watch this year.

  8. #8
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    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    Our defense depends on how much pressure we get from our front 7 ya dig. We need Little to be healthy and Long to keep getting better and better

  9. #9
    C-Mob 71's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    I still see TWO major holes at LB. Pisa and Will play the same position now, so I still think we need to find a suitable but cost efficient SAM and draft Curry to play MIKE. So I think we can be a top 16 defense, we just need to add a couple more LBs.

  10. #10
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    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    Great article, for a change. I'm getting excited over here!

  11. #11
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    Re: Bernie: Signings Could Put The Rams On Course

    I'm always wary before I read something from Bernie, but it's hard to argue with anything he says here.

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