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Cap permitting, Rams could have free-agent options/PD
Cap permitting, Rams could have free-agent options
• By Jim Thomas
Cap permitting, Rams could have free-agent options : Stltoday
With the NFL scouting combine just 10 days away, most teams are knee-deep in draft preparation. But with the start of the free agency period about 30 days away — March 12 — it’s really a dual track.
As is always the case this time of year, the list of potential free agents is enticing. For example, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco is on that list. There are speedy wide receivers such at Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace and Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe. Ball-hawking safeties such as Jairus Byrd of Buffalo and William Moore of Atlanta. And up-and-coming blockers such as New England right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and Buffalo guard Andy Levitre.
But the current list is a tease because many of the top prospects will end up being re-signed by their current teams or designated with the franchise tag by March 12. At the same time, as teams cut their own veterans — oftentimes to improve their cap situation — new names get added to the free-agent list. So it’s a moving target and a fluid list.
There are several names at this time who could be attractive to the Rams. Last offseason, the Rams signed six players who ended up being starters via free agency: cornerback Cortland Finnegan, outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, defensive tackle Kendall Langford, center Scott Wells, center-guard Robert Turner and right tackle Barry Richardson. Five of the six started 15 or 16 games.
With a much tighter cap situation, the Rams may be lucky to sign a couple of starters via free agency this time around. But there are options at several positions of need:
Coach Jeff Fisher said at the end of the season that the Rams needed more takeaways on defense. Well, free safety Byrd, 26, is a two-time Pro Bowler who led or tied for the AFC lead in interceptions in 2009 and 2012. He had five interceptions in 2012. In comparison, the entire Rams safety corps had one INT. No stranger to St. Louis, Byrd played his high school football at Clayton High while his father was an assistant coach under Mike Martz with the Rams.
Like Byrd, Moore has ties to the area, playing at the University of Missouri and in high school at Hayti (Mo.) High. Moore, 27, plays strong safety but has good ball instincts as evidenced by his 11 interceptions during his three seasons as a Falcons starter. He has missed eight games in those three seasons because of injury.
Both Buffalo and Atlanta will do everything it takes to keep Byrd and Moore. But Moore is interested in testing the free agent market, according to league sources.
In the case of San Francisco free safety Dashon Goldson, the Rams could weaken a rival while strengthening themselves. Goldson has 14 interceptions over his four seasons as a full-time starter and is a hard-hitter as well. A two-time Pro Bowler, Goldson, 28, has let it be known he doesn’t want to play under the franchise tag, as was the case in 2012.
Louis Delmas of Detroit, Kenny Phillips of the New York Giants, Corey Lynch of San Diego and James Ihedigbo of Baltimore are among other safeties scheduled for free agency.
WIDE RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS
There is star quality at the top of the wide receiver list in Kansas City’s Bowe, Pittsburgh’s Wallace, Greg Jennings of Green Bay and Wes Welker of New England. Because of that, those players should get top dollar — particularly the younger Bowe, Wallace and Welker. So the question becomes, given their tight cap situation, are the Rams willing to spend $8 million to $10 million a year or more for a free-agent receiver?
The quality drops off pretty dramatically after those four wideouts, which means pending free agents Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson may command more on the open market than the Rams think they’re worth, making it tougher to keep them in St. Louis.
If thwarted on the wide receiver front in free agency, the Rams might consider a receiving tight end. And there are currently several of those potentially available, including Martellus Bennett of the Giants, Jared Cook of Tennessee, Fred Davis of Washington, Dustin Keller of the New York Jets and even James Casey of Houston (who was used in more of an H-backullback role by the Texans).
Those tight ends should come significantly cheaper than the top free agent wide receivers and could give the Rams two receiving threats at the position when paired with Lance Kendricks.
If the Rams choose to invest in a free agent at right tackle to pair with Rodger Saffold, New England’s Vollmer is one of the best young right tackles in the game. The Patriots don’t always pay a lot of money to retain their own free agents, so Vollmer could reach the market. Miami’s Jake Long is a left tackle, so the Rams would then have to move Saffold to another position, and Long probably would cost a ton if he’s not re-signed or franchised.
At this point, there are plenty of other options at tackle, including Kansas City’s Branden Albert, Atlanta’s Sam Baker, the Giants’ William Beatty, New Orleans’ Jermon Bushrod, Denver’s Ryan Clady, Minnesota’s Phil Loadholt and Cincinnati’s Andre Smith.
The free-agent headliner at guard appears to be Levitre of Buffalo, but Louis Vasquez of San Diego and Ramon Foster of Pittsburgh also are scheduled to hit the market in March.
An athletic strongside linebacker to pair with James Laurnaitis and Dunbar would give the Rams a strong unit and potentially a formidable front seven. Trouble is, 4-3 outside linebackers are hard to find in free agency or the draft.
Oakland’s Philip Wheeler, who had 109 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles in 2012, looks like the bench of the bunch. Although listed as an inside linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe of Super Bowl champion Baltimore has the range to play outside. Ellerbe, 27, had 89 tackles and 4½ sacks during the regular season.
It seems like forever since the Rams have had dangerous return men. Be it kickoff or punt returns, there are several intriguing names who wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, including Joshua Cribbs of Cleveland, Ted Ginn Jr. of San Francisco, Leodis McKelvin of Buffalo and Brandon Tate of Cincinnati.
Re: Cap permitting, Rams could have free-agent options/PD
Louis Delmas of Detroit not seeing that happening with Young on the team.
Coaches connection Jared Cook of Tennessee
Les connection William Moore of Atlanta and Sam Baker.
Re: Cap permitting, Rams could have free-agent options/PDTrouble is, 4-3 outside linebackers are hard to find in free agency or the draft.
Unless a team is sewing together players in some Taiwanese sweatshop, EVERY player on EVERY team is found in the free agency or the draft."Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod
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