CAP STATUS: When all is said and done, the Rams have enough cap room to make one or two moderate to large strikes in free agency. Currently the team is $4.5 million under the salary cap, but it will gain cap room if RB Marshall Faulk restructures his contract, if the team signs franchise LT Orlando Pace to a long-term deal, and when the team makes RT Kyle Turley a post-June 1 cap casualty.

Tommy Polley was a productive starter for most of his four seasons in St. Louis, and he was above-average in coverage. But his play was inconsistent, radically so at times, and the team seems committed to having '04 draft pick Brandon Chillar step into his starting spot at strong side linebacker. The team has helped develop Bryce Fisher from a fringe player into a bona fide NFL defensive end. But Fisher's late-season surge -- he was NFC defensive player of the month in December -- basically priced himself out of the market as far as the Rams are concerned. He finished with a team-high 8.5 sacks. Pass rushers are always at a premium in free agency, so Fisher figures to be in line for a nice payday. Anthony Hargrove, who actually was starting ahead of Fisher late last season as a rookie, will man the right end spot. Hargrove remains raw, but he is a promising talent. The team is considering moving DT Damione Lewis outside to DE to help on run defense. FS Aeneas Williams is expected to retire after missing the last five games of the season with an arthritic condition in his neck and shoulder area. Williams, who turned 37 in January, wasn't much of a factor last season, largely because of the injury. Either Adam Archuleta, who has been moved to free safety, or Antuan Edwards, who the club is trying to re-sign, will man the position in '05.

Linebacker already was a position of prime need. But that is the case even more now that the team has decided to switch OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa to strong safety. With Polley not expected back, the Rams now need two new starters in '05. That's particularly true at middle linebacker, because the team plans to switch Robert Thomas to weak side linebacker. If you had to pick one area that the team would target in free agency, linebacker would be it. It's clear the team is looking for more size and striking power in the middle. Philadelphia's Jeremiah Trotter, Baltimore's Edgerton Hartwell or Washington's Antonio Pierce all would fill the bill. All three weigh 240 pounds or more. Pittsburgh's Kendrell Bell could be another option. He can play all three LB positions and can rush the passer. . . .

With Turley on the way out, right tackle is a high area of need. Youngsters Scott Tercero or Blaine Saipaia could play the position, and they played decently there last year, either in the preseason or regular season. But the Rams will consider adding a veteran to the mix. Tennessee's Fred Miller, a former Ram, could be a possibility if, as expected, he's a cap casualty. Other possibilities are Pittsburgh's Oliver Ross, Buffalo's Jonas Jennings, and Indianapolis' Ryan Diem. If Lewis, in fact, moves to DE, another DT will be needed to help out in a defensive line rotation that already has Ryan Pickett and Jimmy Kennedy as starters. But it's unlikely the Rams would want to pay more than a moderate price for a free-agent DT. . . .

If Antuan Edwards is re-signed, then the team needs decrease at safety, which appears to be a weak position anyway in free agency.