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    Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    By Tony Softli

    Tony Softli covers the Rams and the entire NFL for 101 ESPN and 101Sports.com.

    The clock is ticking with free agency to start whenever the lockout is lifted. A feeding frenzy is just around the corner. The conversations, calculations, and player posturing are currently taking place as it does every year. This time period is like watching a flat-screen television. You only see the screen, while the working parts, guts, computer chips and electronics are busy at work displaying the visual.

    With all 32 NFL teams itching to book flights, organize and set up visits to their facilities and plan tours of the city, everything hinges on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and the three judges making the decision to lift the stay.

    While the Rams did an adequate job of filling some needs in the draft, the list of needs to fill remains long and the positional needs are on both sides of the ball. Rams owner Stan Kroenke was quoted as saying, "We will build through the yearly draft and avoid heavy spending in free agency."

    With those directives from ownership, look for the Rams to fill some key hot spots in free agency. It's not that Kroenke doesn't want to spend the money to build a championship team. It's that he understands that the draft is the bloodline of the organization and free agents are overvalued too often.

    Below I have listed key free agents that would help fill the hotspots, and I prioritized the remaining needs for the Rams: running back, guard, defensive tackle, outside linebacker and safety.

    DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers. Age: 27

    A trade is still on the block. I helped draft Williams before taking a vice-president job with the Rams. He is a class act off the field and an excellent all-purpose running back on the field. Medical is the only concern for me, as he has soft tissue injury history the past several seasons.

    Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants. Age: 25

    Ahmad Bradshaw should be re-signed by the Giants, but if not he fits as a great one/two punch. He's an all-purpose dual threat. Despite some ball protection issues in 2010, he rushed for 1,235 yards (4.5 per attempt) and eight touchdowns. He has a natural receiving skill set with 47 receptions for 314 yards. Has some injury history but they all do.

    Michael Bush, RB, Raiders. Age: 27

    This running back has size, speed and production. He came into the NFL with a major leg injury history. Despite nagging injuries, he has worked through it with toughness and a passion for the game. A backup to Darren McFadden, he was overshadowed in 2010, but still possesses the skill set to be a key backup and carry the load as a starter an a emergency. Injury history is a concern.

    Darren Sproles, RB/KR/PR, Chargers Age: 28

    This player is a triple threat and might be the best fit for the Rams. He is not interested in a starting role and would be a key contributor as both a kickoff and punt return specialist. He is a third-down back that is tough, competitive and plays the game with a passion. He is quicker than fast and would be a great complementary back to Jackson.

    Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals. Age: 25


    An NFC West divisional threat, Hightower always had good games against the Rams. I liked this player coming out of college, but the Rams' brain trust turned their heads when he was still on the board. He is a classic change-of-pace running back. He has pick and slide running skills to bounce to open space with big-play ability and solid receiving skills.

    Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins. Age: 29

    I like this former War Eagle and No. 2 overall draft choice. He would bring the wildcat dimension to the Rams. He is also a walking stitch in personnel medical terms, meaning he has major injury history to ligaments or joints. Would add a different dimension, but wear and tear and knee issues in the past rule this player out. He is not a long-term fix.

    Jerome Harrison, RB, Eagles. Age: 28

    As a Husky, it's hard for me to like this Washington State Cougar. This undersized running back had a breakout season in 2009. With the arrival and power running of Peyton Hillis, his touches diminished. A change-of-pace back with good durability. He is effective as a receiver and runner.

    Mewelde Moore, RB, Steelers. Age: 29

    A classic third-down back that would fit in Josh McDaniels' offense like Kevin Faulk did in New England. Would need to develop into a core special teams player until role is called upon. Is both competitive and tough.

    Other possibilities:

    Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia. Age: 23:
    Short and small but a difference-maker that is a blur as far as speed is concerned.

    Garrett Wolfe, RB, Bears. Age: 27: Short and small; is not a true fit.

    Laurence Maroney, RB, Broncos: Age: 26: Injury history on shoulder and his latest off-the-field issues knock this player out of consideration for me.

    Patrick Cobbs, RB, Dolphins. Age: 28: Would contribute as a third-down back, but must develop into a core special teams player.

    Lex Hilliard, RB, Dolphins. Age: 27: The darling of the pre-season early in his career. Has running skills and vision, but injury history and the inability to get off the practice squad is a concern for me.

    The remaining positional needs (guard, defensive tackle, outside linebacker and safety) will appear in a four-part series starting with guard on Friday.

    My favorites would be

    1) Hightower

    2) Sproles

    3) (I'll probably take heat for this one) Noel Devine - hey at least he'd come cheap .. and he could spell Amendola on special teams ..


  2. #2
    Keenum's Avatar
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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    I'm not sure here... I would only bring in a guy for the right price, unless we got a good offer from the Saints for Reggie Bush or something like that.

    I was pleased with Darby overall last year, so I would only want to bring in another guy if he were faster and more agile than Darby. Sproles really sticks out to me and would be great for special teams as well. Hightower is interesting... if nothing else it would keep him from having his yearly "career-game" against us, haha.

    Ronnie Brown has too much of an injury past, otherwise he would be a great fit. Would really need to look in to his knee history and then only bring him in for the right price.

  3. #3
    Shan the Ram Man's Avatar
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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    I like Hightower & Devine as free agents signings.
    Would be a cheap signing. So Rams could spend money on other needs.
    Make hightower the back up RB for S.J.. He would also be a great 3rd down back.
    Then let Devine & other back ups fight it out for roster spots.

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Shan the Ram Man View Post
    I like Hightower & Devine as free agents signings.
    Would be a cheap signing. So Rams could spend money on other needs.
    Make hightower the back up RB for S.J.. He would also be a great 3rd down back.
    Then let Devine & other back ups fight it out for roster spots.
    I don't think Hightower would be a cheap signing .. Devine would be inexpensive though.

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    I'd want change back from a $5 spot to sign Hightower. This guy has done virtually nothing with the huge advantage of a very explosive pass offense to loosen things up for him. If Softli wanted to draft him, no wonder he lost his job with The Rams,imo.

    Sproles is the only one I'd like to see some Wal-dollars waved at. Otherwise, I'd rather see if Devaney can root out some minor gem.

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    The Rams could probably Sign Hightower for half of what Sproles & Bush want to be paid. With the money saved spend it on a quality Gaurd prospect.
    The quality Gaurd prospect would protect the Ram franchise QB Sam Bradford & give better running lanes for S.J. to run through.

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Shan the Ram Man View Post
    The Rams could probably Sign Hightower for half of what Sproles & Bush want to be paid. With the money saved spend it on a quality Gaurd prospect.
    The quality Gaurd prospect would protect the Ram franchise QB Sam Bradford & give better running lanes for S.J. to run through.
    This.
    If our passing game pans out perfectly into McDaniels's ideal scenario, then it'll open up lanes for Jackson and Darby. To top that off with a mauler will increase their YPC.

    And I really hope you're typo trolling lol.

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    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Shan the Ram Man View Post
    The Rams could probably Sign Hightower for half of what Sproles & Bush want to be paid. With the money saved spend it on a quality Gaurd prospect.
    The quality Gaurd prospect would protect the Ram franchise QB Sam Bradford & give better running lanes for S.J. to run through.
    Money will always be an issue, for sure, but I don't think you get enough return by exchanging one mediocre guy for another. I also seem to remember that The Rams were looking in pretty good shape cap-wise if the CBA had been renewed. I think the Rams could find the money for both OG and 2nd RB. At least Greco and Goldberg are viable, albeit iffy, options if a financial compromise had to be made . Toston doesn't quite cut it by comparison, even as a temporary patch,imo.

    I'm also leery of the Hightower thing because I think it's like ShowerBeers noted about the draft; "familiar" often seems to equal "good" in some fans' eyes. Ain't necessarily so.Give Darby the carries/chances Hightower had with SuperKurt shredding defenses with those WRs & he'd do well,imo. Possibly better.For another eg, Westbrook did very little for the Whiners (340 yds rush/16 grabs & 150 pass yds in 5 starts plus 14 games active overall. Scored 5 TDs which is good but nothing spectacular. Darby had 3 & barely saw consecutive carries, never mind any starts....) but you'd think The Rams had missed out on Faulk in his prime by the reaction in some quarters at the time.Billy has found useful WRs in Amendola and Gibson off the scrap heap; I'm really hoping for the same with an RB or two this year. Ne'er-do-wells & retreads are a post TC/preseason option,imo.

    I also think it'll be interesting to see if the upswing in The Rams form will affect how this pans out. I wonder if Westbrook feels he backed the right horse for a last run at the playoffs now. Hehehe....

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    My list of wants:

    1. Bradshaw
    2. Sproles
    3. Bradshaw
    4. Sproles
    5. Bradshaw
    6. Sproles

    etc etc etc......

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    Hightower averaged 4.2 and 4.8 yards per carry the last two years and had 63 receptions in 2009. Pretty solid numbers to bring in as a #2 back plus he's young. Devaney commented previously the Rams prefer to bring in free agents that are coming off their first contract (young) versus bring in guys obviously in decline (Westbrook).

    Sproles will command big bucks I'm guessing. He's far more of a high profile player that will attract interest.

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    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    Quote Originally Posted by RebelYell View Post
    Hightower averaged 4.2 and 4.8 yards per carry the last two years and had 63 receptions in 2009. Pretty solid numbers to bring in as a #2 back plus he's young. Devaney commented previously the Rams prefer to bring in free agents that are coming off their first contract (young) versus bring in guys obviously in decline (Westbrook).

    Sproles will command big bucks I'm guessing. He's far more of a high profile player that will attract interest.
    Imo, that gaudy average is a mirage; exaggerated by the occasional home run hit from inside his own half when a D is back to defend Fitz,et al.Take away just a couple of those home runs & watch that average plummet.McD's offense is efficient,spread-it-around,ball-control through the air, not GSOT-lite. The Pats were top 3 in time of possession throughout his tenure.The Rams need a consistent performer to replicate that success and since his catches dropped to 21 in 2010, how much of that 2009 high was Kurt-aided? Sam could probably do the same but why pay FA $$ & commit to a multi-year deal for production Sam could probably get out of a couple of cheaper one year guys? How much of TH's overall career performance was incompetent-Ram-D-twice-a-year-aided? I'm having browser issues so stats are a pain to research right now but I don't think Hightower has ever caught a TD pass & his average was 2.6 in the RZ last year. And there are intangibles/difficult for fans to discern issues like pass pro,work habits,etc involved. Since AZ has invested heavily in new RBs , I'd say there's a fair chance that Hightower doesn't rate highly there,either.

    I'm not saying the guy's a stiff, just mediocre.The young vet criterion is just common sense but don't you have to see upside, not just youth? I think this guy has been producing above his talent because of his situation & will not get better & quite possibly be worse for The Rams in theirs And I think The Rams need, & can probably afford, to do better.

    I thought it was pretty clear that The Rams would have inked Westbrook last year if he'd been willing so I wouldn't now think they'd rule out an older player if his skill set and intangibles suited The Rams.I just think it's rare to get a guy like that who'll be good for more than a year & growing younger talent is preferable when possible.

    I agree about Sproles & I'd be really surprised if Devaney went after him in a bidding war. I only like him in this list because he is so obviously,imo, the most talented of the guys who could be deployed WITH SJ & really add a scary dimension by which defenses would be ,in McD-speak, consistently stressed . Bradshaw is close but the injuries and fumbles are worrisome.

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    Holy cow, having a running back that can generate a long run and execute it is now considered a negative strike against him? Then to beat it to death we have to exclude any catches he made when he had a quality QB throwing him the ball because in St. Louis he would have a loser playing behind center? Only on internet forums do you get this type of analysis.

    I was thinking, maybe we should selectively remove all completed passes Bradford threw to Amendola last year:
    53% completion ratio
    2823 yards
    15 TDs for a starting QB?

    By my analysis that means Bradford is possibly the worst QB in the league. Yep, that makes complete sense.

    edit: would you like to compare Hightower's stats with Beanie Wells' stats?
    Last edited by RebelYell; -05-18-2011 at 11:42 AM.

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    Quote Originally Posted by RebelYell View Post
    Holy cow, having a running back that can generate a long run and execute it is now considered a negative strike against him? Then to beat it to death we have to exclude any catches he made when he had a quality QB throwing him the ball because in St. Louis he would have a loser playing behind center? Only on internet forums do you get this type of analysis.

    I was thinking, maybe we should selectively remove all completed passes Bradford threw to Amendola last year:
    53% completion ratio
    2823 yards
    15 TDs for a starting QB?

    By my analysis that means Bradford is possibly the worst QB in the league. Yep, that makes complete sense.

    edit: would you like to compare Hightower's stats with Beanie Wells' stats?
    Au contraire, mon frere; I think you are the internet forum analyst cherry-picking one stat as representative of this guy's productivity and talent, ie the 4.8 average based on so few carries that it is, of course, distorted by a big run once in a blue moon, then conveniently only cite the 63 catches with a HOF QB in the previous year without mentioning the drop-off in 2010 without said QB . Look at the context & all his stats and all his games & I think you see a mediocre player that we could get for less.Two runs of 40+ yds in a season of otherwise blah performance look like luck/defensive brain gas to me, not some beast waiting to be unleashed. I also don't like the 4 fumbles per season for a guy with so few carries.

    Not at all sure what your point is with Amendola. If you are asking me if DA's heavily Sam-aided stats from last year make him look like a more impactful player than he is, I wholeheartedly agree.

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    You said he was mediocre.
    Then when confronted with evidence via statistics you said the statistics were over rated because he had long runs.
    Then you say the long runs aren't often enough. Which is it? Are they not often enough or do they distort the stats? You can't have both. They are either statistically relevant or they aren't.
    Lastly you say we shouldn't count his receptions when he had a premier QB yet Bradford is a premier QB. Why reduce them to being unimportant? Can he catch the ball as a 3rd down back or not?

    Steven Jackson caught a lot of balls at one point, does that mean he no longer can catch the ball because the Rams aren't utilizing him in that way to the same extent?

    It seems you are looking for excuses for why Tim Hightower isn't right but the excuses aren't holding water.

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    Re: Possible Rams Free Agents: Running Backs ..

    Hightower and Bradshaw would be my choices ..

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