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  1. #1
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    Burwell: Rams play it smart, getting some help without going crazy

    Rams play it smart, getting some help without going crazy
    By Bryan Burwell
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Tuesday, Mar. 04 2008

    I know what you're thinking. You're a pro football fanatic, that truly obsessive and rare soul who thinks live telecasts of the NFL Scouting Combine are more compelling theater than presidential primary coverage. You believe the start of the NFL's free-agent shopping season is one of the most wonderful times of the year, for you are that rare neurotic (and I say that with nothing but love) who thinks that free-agent season is sort of like having a birthday right before Christmas. First you get great free-agent gifts, and just a few weeks later, we get more sensational gifts via the NFL draft.

    I know what you're thinking. Less than a week into the NFL's free-agent shopping season, spending has soared well above $700 million in extravagant contracts for players of varying degrees of talent. Randy Moss has re-signed with the Patriots. Asante Samuel bolted New England for the Philadelphia Eagles. Pittsburgh Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca cashed in on a contract that will make him the richest offensive lineman in NFL history, and countless other impact players have re-signed with their current teams.

    Yet here we were three days into the process, and of course the biggest news for anxious Rams fans was ...

    They signed a kicker?

    Early Monday evening, the Rams got a free-agent gift in a slightly larger package. Two days after the signing of place kicker Josh Brown, head coach Scott Linehan, quarterback Marc Bulger and several other key members of the team's welcome wagon persuaded former Tennessee Titans guard Jacob Bell to stay at Rams Park.

    While adding kickers and faceless offensive linemen to the roster hardly registers high on the Wow Meter, these are just the sort of smart, unspectacular moves that could edge this team in the right direction from its 3-13 disaster in 2007 into a far more entertaining and competitive product.

    These are good first steps. A reliable Pro Bowl kicker on a team that struggles to score is a huge addition, but not nearly as significant as an upgrade to the Rams' starting offensive line. With Bell in the starting lineup, that immediately improves both the starters and the backup depth of a unit that struggled to stay healthy and productive all last season.

    However, maybe the best thing to cull from the early days of the free agent process is how the Rams' front office has resisted the urge to grossly overspend in an inflated, yet unimpressive marketplace. With the dramatic rise in team salary caps — since 2005, the NFL salary cap has risen from $85.5 million per team to $116 million for the 2008 season —teams have the money to spend to keep the best players off the free agent market. Before the start of the free-agency period, 11 teams put the franchise tag on their most important potential free agents and another placed a transition tag on another player,more than twice as many protected players as usual. With 12 big names off the market before the shopping could begin, that greatly reduced the most attractive names from the field.

    Playing it smart in free agency is vital, and so far, the Rams have done well. But there is far more work to be done. If they can add some reasonable depth among the slim pickings that remain on the market, Phase One of the rebuilding process can be considered a success. But the weak free agent market puts an even greater burden on the retooled Rams personnel department to make sure that it doesn't make any mistakes in the draft.

    And how scary is that? The most obvious weakness in this franchise over the past decade is now being counted on to become its greatest strength. Picking with the second pick in the first round and two picks among the first 33, the Rams will have ample opportunity to land immediate and significant help. If they don't come away with at least one Pro Bowl caliber player and another starter on Day 1 of the draft, that is bad news.

    Hopefully, the madness of the past few years was enough to convince Rams ownership that business as usual was a colossal failure. Hold your breath, cross your fingers and pray that it's finally true that real football people are at long last totally in charge of making critical football talent evaluations.

    If that's true, it could be an early Christmas. If not, it's just more of the same dark and dismal days ahead.


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    Re: Burwell: Rams play it smart, getting some help without going crazy

    Great read.

    I think that it is relatively true in whats mentioned here. We did a smart thing signing Bell over Faneca. We waited to see whos best and we got two of the best. They're not the biggest name guys, but they easily compare to them.

    We'll be adding depth players from the FA from here on out. Which is what I love to hear. The draft will be interesting. I agree with what he says too. We need EASILY two starters from the first day of the draft. One atleast at probowl level.

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    Re: Burwell: Rams play it smart, getting some help without going crazy

    Quote Originally Posted by Burwell
    "Hopefully, the madness of the past few years was enough to convince Rams ownership that business as usual was a colossal failure. Hold your breath, cross your fingers and pray that it's finally true that real football people are at long last totally in charge of making critical football talent evaluations.

    If that's true, it could be an early Christmas. If not, it's just more of the same dark and dismal days ahead."
    I think there were not many moves that could be made in F.A. The pool of players were small. I wounder what is the plan. Can we get all we need in the draft? I don't think so rarely do rookies make big impacts on teams. Are we going to trade for what we need? Or do management think this thing can get turn around this year, or will take years to get it right.
    Last edited by HUbison; -03-10-2008 at 10:34 AM. Reason: straightened up the formatting
    :ramlogo:

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    Re: Burwell: Rams play it smart, getting some help without going crazy

    There were plenty of moves to be done eldfan, however, the question is whether they were smart moves or not. With the pool of free agents, I'd have to say for the most part, sitting still was the best move. Put time and effort into researching the draft pool, find guys who will fit the system and be able to spend time on the field as rookies.

    It's been said earlier in this thread that not many rookies contribute, but that's actually quite false. Look at the last two super bowl champions, the best indicators of what the league requires of its champions. The Giants had all 8 of their rookies spend time on the field late in the season and make significant contributions. The Colts relied upon then-rookie Antoine Bethea as their starting free safety for most of the season after Mike Doss went down for the season. Anyone know where Bethea was drafted? He was the 207th man drafted, in the sixth round. He started for most of the season, picked off Tom Brady in the regular season, and helped win a Super Bowl. This year, he made it to the pro bowl as an alternate for Polamalu.

    Anyone who says that there isn't talent late in the draft just isn't looking or is looking for the wrong thing.

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