Jim Thomas Live
Football writer Jim Thomas and Rams exec Kevin Demoff field questions from readers at 1 p.m. Tuesday in a live chat.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 01:00 PM CDT

How should the Rams look at the final 6 games of 2008? (Losing 4 of their last 6 by a combined 12 points)

A). With optimism

B.) A loss is a loss and they were 4 of the teams 14 losses.

I only ask because I remember teams in the past that played close games down the stretch but still lost and came back the next year and won a lot of those close games. The 2001 Carolina Panthers come to mind. In '01, the Panthers were 1-15 but played in close games. In 2002 the Panthers hired the Giants DC John Fox and they went 7-9 and had the leagues 2nd best defense. And then in '03 they went 11-5, won the NFC South, and were 45 seconds away from going into overtime of Super Bowl XXXVIII with the Patriots.

Jim Thomas: Hello again everybody, it's good to be back on the chat. But for openers, we have a special guest in Rams executive vice president of football operations/chief operating officer Kevin Demoff. Kevin will be answering the questions. Today, I'm just the typist. So if you have any draft pick negotiating or salary cap questions, now's your chance.

Anyway, here's Kevin's answer to the above question about close losses at the end of '08.

KEVIN DEMOFF: "I think the answer would be A, we look at it with optimism. The team showed their character by not quitting when many teams in similar situations would have done so. There is no such thing as a moral victory, but Coach Spagnuolo has been impressed by how hard the team played down the stretch."

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Cory in Wentzville: JT,

In almost every season in recent past there has been, on average, 6-7 new playoff teams every year (including around 4 new division winners). I know it is early, and you like to wait until closer to the season to make your predicitions. But can you give us 2 or 3 teams that didn't make the postseason last year that you think will in 2009? And on the flipside, whose spot(s) will they take in the postseason?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "That's easy: The Rams and the Bucs!"

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Rich: Greetings Jim,

What do you see the Rams absolutely having to come away with by the end of training camp (aside from mastering the new schemes)?

In my mind there are three things:

Physical and Mental Toughness

The Rams cannot afford to be blown off the line every other play nor can they collectively wilt when things suddenly go south.

A true back-up behind Steve Jackson

If the Rams are going to have a power running game then they better find somebody that can carry the load if (or when) number 39 goes down.

Two starter caliber CBs

Last year was proof positive, having a solid corner and one side and the equivalent of cheese cloth on the other wasn't going to get it done.

Between Hill, King, and Fletcher one of those guys has to step into the breach.

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "Any team executive's first priority is to come out healthy. Beyond that, with a new coaching staff and new schemes, I want the coaches to be happy with the team's understanding of the play book. The other thing I think we're all looking for is for players to respond to competition at their position, and for them to win jobs _ not win them by default."

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Rita from South County: Hi Jim,

Welcome back! Thanks for taking our questions this week.

1.) What ever happened to Jason Craft and to Ricky Manning Jr.?
2.) Kevin, you need to tell Chip to bring back the gold. Disco pants or
not, it's what we in St. Louis are used to seeing. Who are these guys
in the blue and white?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF

"1.) I think we're excited to see the defensive backs on our roster compete during camp. However, Billy (Devaney), Mike (Williams--pro personnel director) keep tabs on all available players in the league, and have an emergency list in case of injury or need. Those players (Craft and Manning) are players who are familiar to our building and that can always help move them up on a list."

" 2.) Coach Spagnuolo and the players get to decide on uniform combinations, so the fate of the Disco pants is in their hands. One thing to look forward to in the next few weeks is the announcement of which home games we will wear our throwback uniforms this season. We will wear throwbacks two regular-season home games, so stay tuned."

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got2golfjk: In the history of sports , has there ever been an occurrence, during a season , that a team didn't have to leave their homes for 35 DAYS ?
( figure come home after Lions game , 11/1,and are in their own beds until leaving for Chicago on 12/5.)Talk about a " homestand".

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "It is unusual, but much better than being on the wroad for three straight games."

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got2golfjk: what are your radio station "numbers" on the dial , or " call letters " , so us New Yorkers can listen in on computers ?

Jim Thomas: JIM THOMAS: It's 101.1 FM.

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CraZyRAM: Hello Jim,
Do you forsee any of the Rams rookies not signing in time for training camp? If yes, then who?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "I'm very concerned that Coach Spagnuolo won't be signed in time for camp. In all seriousness, I would be very surprised if we had any rookies unsigned a week from Friday. I would be as disappointed in the Rams as in the players if that were to happen."

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CraZyRAM: Hi Jim,

Are the RAMS looking in to aquiring Vick by chance? He would be great threat running the "Wildcat" formation in my eyes. If not the RAMS, any teams looking to sign him? Who in your opinion is the front runner?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "I think Billy (Devaney) and Steve (Spagnuolo) have answered this many times, and each time they have not expressed an interste in Michael Vick."

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Terrapin03: Mr. Demoff -
How important do you think a rookie salary cap is for the next collective bargaining agreement? What are the chances that the rookie wage scale is altered in some way soon? Why has the player's union been against this? In theory this would provide a larger percentage of the "pot" to veterans, who have already paid their dues and are more of a known commodity. We know you're a busy man, so thank you for your time today!

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "As a team that has picked second in the draft the last two years, I realize there is a sensitivity to the large contracts these players receive. However, we also have an opportunity to select an impact player who can change a franchise, and there is a cost associated with that. Nobody ever worries about what really good players make, and if Jason (Smith) and Chris (Long) become the players we think they will be, I'll be more worried about their next contract than their first one. I will leave it in the hands of others to decide what's important in the upcoming labor talks."

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rams26: Hello Jim and Kevin!

Who do you think will be the starting strong side linebacker? Someone already on the team, or will we search elsewhere?

Thank you!

As always.............GO RAMS!!!!!!!!

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF (Editor's note: Who's wearing a tie today for the first time at Rams Park):
"I have great confidence in (linebackers) Coach (Paul) Ferraro, (defensive coordinator) Ken Flajole, and the rest of the defensive staff to bring along all of the linebackers we have. It should be a good competition to watch during camp. I think we have a lot of talented young players who could take advantage of the opportunity there."

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jm2006: Hey Jim,

Welcome back!I'm wondering why Kevin who I thought was supposed to be a numbers guru is sitting with you taking questions when he should be in a bunker somewhere at Rams Park getting the rookies contracts done in time before camp starts?? I thought Billy Devaney handled the day in day out operations of the team? Kevin, please tell me there isn't going to be a power struggle at Rams park ala Jay Zygmut.

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "After spending all day yesterday with Ben Dogra and Tom Condon (the agents for Jason Smith and James Laurinaitis), I decided it was more fun to spend the day with Jim Thomas and Bill Coats here in the Rams' media room. As for Billy (Devaney), I haven't seen him since I locked him in the bunker. I promised him I would let him out before Springsteen comes to town.

"We are in constant contact with the agents for our unsigned picks every day. I promise if we have a holdout I will never chat again in July."

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Mike E.: Welcome Back Jim! Kevin - Appreciate you joining the forum. With most teams opening training camp in less than two weeks, I don't recall in recent memory seeing so few 1st and 2nd round draft choices signed this close to the start of training camp. I believe there have only been 6 or so of the total 64 players drafted in those rounds to sign as of yet. Is this abnormal to have so many players unsigned this close to training camp? Are there other influences this year that is prolonging the process that have not played a factor in previous years? I know these things typically come in bunches and really start rolling once the benchmark is set. That said, how is it that New England could sign 3 of their 4 second round picks and other teams are still in the "negotiations" phase?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "Every year seems to have it's own rhythm in how the picks get signed. This year there were a ton of fifth_, sixth_, and seventh-rounders signed early, but no fourth-rounders. I don't think where we sit today that there is an unusually low number of first_ and second-rounders signed. But if that doesn't change by the end of the week, we might be trending a little behind. Many team executives and agents are just coming back from vacations this week, much like your own Jim Thomas."

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ramboy81: hey jim , do you think the rams will go after roscoe parrish and jarvis moss, the parrish move would definitely be a upgrade over stanley , we need this guy bad . ps jim tell mr demoff go get him

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "It would be tampering for me to speculate or comment on players from other teams."

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Casper, Denmark: Hi Jim - thanks for the time. I have two questions for you.

1. In th elight of Stafford's huge contract, how large a contract do you think JAson Smith will get. Do you think it will be closer to the one Chris Long got last year?

2. What unit are you most looking forward to folow through camp and why?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "I truly hope this question comes from Denmark and not from the offices of CAA football in Clayton (where agents Dogra and Condon work). Every contract is unique, and Matt Stafford's deal is just one aspect of Jason Smith's negotiation. As for question No. 2, I'm most excited to follow fan attendance at camp and the buzz in the community once people get a taste of what a great coaching staff and dedicated set of players we have. We are excited to bring camp back to St. Louis, so that our fans can see what those of us who work here every day have gotten to see throughout the spring."

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HomeRunHomer: Will there be any special accommodations set up for handicap fans at training camp? (Parking, wheelchair access, etc)

What items can or canít be brought into training camp? (Coolers, cameras, etc)

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "For all training camp information, please visit our website (The official site of the St. Louis Rams - Home Page) Or call our Training Camp hotline at 314-516-8852. Those two places should be able to answer any questions you have, but we will try to make training camp accessible to everybody."

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Marv Stern: If Barron has a good season at LT, and we are able to keep Jason Smith at RT the whole year, how do you justify keeping Barron and paying him LT money when you are already paying that to Smith? Can we afford to have that much money tied up in our offensive line? Especially after the payout to our new free agent center?

Longtime Ram fan, going back to the days of Roman Gabriel.

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "I am never concerned about what happens if our players have good seasons. Each offseason, Billy, Steve, and I will take a look at our roster and allocate our salary cap dollars to field the best possible team. If our offensive line emerges as a team strength and we need to address contracts there, that would be a good problem to have."

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CraZyRAM: Hello Jim and Kevin,
See any complications signing the rest of the rookie class? Will all be in for training camp? How much does that roughly leave the salary cap at?(give or take)

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "I'll answer the last part since I answered the first questions previously. With the special accounting rules in a final cap season (a season preceding an uncapped year), there are a number of special charges that you have to reserve room for at the end of the year. So if you factor in all of those expected charges, we have roughly $2 million, which is the same number we started the offseason with."

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Sam: Mr Demoff,
Can you expand on the implications of the potentially uncapped year approaching? Are there any Rams players in particular who would be impacted by the uncapped year?

Additionally, could you provide any insight into the sort of strategy you use to balance salaries, not just this year, but keeping future years in mind? How does this impact deals that you negotiate?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "I think the biggest implication of a potentially uncapped year is the change in free agency rules, with players needing 6 years of experience to become unrestricted free agents instead of four. That impacts each team in a different way, but there are a number of players from the 2005 and 2006 draft classes who will not be free agents. The most unusual case would be Oshiomogho Atogwe, who could go from being a franchise player to being a restricted free agent following the 2009 season. To answer the second part of your question, I think the most important part of building a roster from a salary cap perspective is give your head coach and general manager the flexibility to keep and go after whichever players they see fit to have on their roster. Any long-term plan has to take into account their vision for the team, first and foremost."

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CraZyRAM: Quick one for Kevin,

With Atogwe signing the franchise tender, an not being able to reach a long term agreement with him. Are you still allowed to discuss long-term negotiations with him and his agent and still sign midway through the season on a long term deal. Or do you have to wait till seasons end?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "We can have negotiations with O.J. and his representatives throughout the year, but we are not able to sign an extension until after the last regular-season game. I remain hopeful we can strike a deal at some point during the season. I do think it's important to say how impressed I was with the dignity and grace with which O.J. handled his situation. The Rams could not have asked for a franchise player to have acted any better than O.J. did, and it's a testament to the kind of person he is."

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Alex Barron: Hey Kevin,

When are we going to sign my contract extension?

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "Alex, glad to hear from you. Come upstairs any time!"

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zn2003: QUOTATION: I'm wondering why Kevin who I thought was supposed to be a numbers guru is sitting with you taking questions when he should be in a bunker somewhere at Rams Park getting the rookies contracts done in time before camp starts

COMMENT: There's always one.

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "You're assuming I'm a numbers guru. . . "

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Reading Ram: Kevin,

How would you describe the working relationship between you, Steve and Billy? To me it seems like for the first time in a long time we have a real cooperative team running things for the Rams. If that is the case I look forward to seeing what you guys can accomplish in the future.

P.S. Get James and Jason signed!!

Jim Thomas: KEVIN DEMOFF: "Steve and Billy were a large part of the reason I joined the Rams' organization. I consider our organization to be lucky to have those two in the positions they're in. If I can help contribute in any way to their vision for the Rams and this organization's long-term success, then that's an exciting challenge. I enjoy coming to work every day with those guys. However, you will have to wait for their chats to see how they feel about me!"

JIM THOMAS: That's the last of our questions. Thanks for participating. Now Kevin can get out of here and start earning his money. See you next week.

KEVIN DEMOFF: "Thanks for the questions. Now I won't give Jim such a hard time for his answers after seeing how passionate readers are first hand. I hope to see everybody at camp next Friday, and at the refurbished Edward Jones Dome this season. Don't forget, single game tickets go on sale on August 6, and flex plans are currently on sale. (Gotta put my COO hat on sometimes.)"