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Thread: Rams' building blocks may fall
Rams' building blocks may fall
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
In the spring of 2001, the Rams acquired the No. 12 overall pick by trading quarterback Trent Green to Kansas City. They added the No. 29 overall pick by trading disgruntled defensive end Kevin Carter to Tennessee. Throw in their original pick, No. 20 overall, and the Rams had three first-round picks for the first time since 1975.
On draft day, president of football operations Jay Zygmunt scrawled "471" on the greaseboard in the Rams' draft room - a reminder of the franchise-record 471 points allowed the previous season. Fittingly, the Rams used all three first-round picks on defensive players: tackle Damione Lewis (No. 12), safety Adam Archuleta (No. 20) and tackle Ryan Pickett (No. 29).
They would be building blocks in the revival of the Rams' defense. And for a while it looked as if they were. In 2001, the Rams engineered one of the most dramatic defensive turnarounds in NFL history, with Archuleta and Lewis (before a season-ending foot injury) getting significant playing time on the Rams' NFC championship team. In 2003, the Rams were takeaway kings in the NFL, helping the team win the NFC West title, with Archuleta, Lewis and Pickett starting 33 games among them.
But as the disappointing 2005 Rams season winds down, the defense has gone south again. With the season finale against Dallas still to be played, the Rams already have allowed 419 points - the second-worst total in franchise history.
Archuleta, Lewis and Pickett are scheduled for unrestricted free agency. Their contracts expire at the end of this season. And with the Rams about to make a head-coaching change, none of the three knows what the future holds.
"I would love to come back here and play," Pickett said. "But I don't know what's going on. We haven't really been talking much lately, and the year's winding down. So I have no idea. I don't know what their plans are with me."
Neither does Archuleta or Lewis.
"I would love to come back if they want me back," Lewis said. "But if they choose to go in another direction, I understand that, too. After all, it is business."
Archuleta, Lewis and Pickett are among 13 Rams scheduled for unrestricted free agency. The list also includes defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson, long snapper Chris Massey, punter Bryan Barker and quarterback Jamie Martin.
In addition, the Rams have seven players scheduled for restricted free agency, including wide receivers Kevin Curtis and Shaun McDonald, cornerback DeJuan Groce and free safety Mike Furrey.
"There's a lot of people in here who are restricted or (unrestricted)," Furrey said. "So we'll see."
Once the free agency period begins in early March, unrestricted free agents can sign with any team, no strings attached. The Rams can match offers on restricted free agents.
At the moment, the Rams are in decent shape with their salary cap for 2006. They have 36 players under contract for next season. Including money for players no longer on the roster, the Rams have $78.7 million committed to their 2006 cap.
The 2005 cap was $85.5 million, but early projections have the 2006 cap increasing $7 million to $10 million, to a total cap somewhere between $92 million and $95 million.
Complicating matters cap-wise is the potential retirement of players such as running back Marshall Faulk, offensive guard Adam Timmerman and linebacker Dexter Coakley. The retirement of any of those players would eat up additional cap space because of un-amortized signing bonus money remaining on multiyear contracts.
The cap picture gets even hazier because of the impending hiring of a new head coach. The Rams' front office may move ahead on attempting to re-sign some of the club's pending free agents. Others may be put on hold until the new coach arrives.
"Regardless of what coach is here, I like it here," Pickett said. "I like my teammates. I've gotten used to being in St. Louis. So leaving here would be tough for me."
By the numbers, Pickett is having a career year. He leads NFL defensive tackles in stops, with a career-high 112 tackles. He has matched his career high with two sacks and also has 13 quarterback pressures and a forced fumble.
As far as getting a new contract - here or elsewhere - Pickett says, "I don't feel like there's any pressure on me. I made out my resume on tape. I played hard. So it's ultimately up to them."
Pickett's agent, Tom Condon, is seeking a deal for $4 million a year, according to one team source, a figure that the Rams so far have balked at paying. But Pickett said contract talks aren't very far along.
"There was some discussion, but it wasn't major," Pickett said. "My agent met with them a couple times, and they never really discussed details."
Among other prospective unrestricted free agents, Jackson, 34, says he wants to continue playing beyond this season; Martin, 35, says he will wait until after the season to decide whether to retire.
Although his play has leveled off, Archuleta still ranks third on the team in tackles (87) and is tied for second in sacks among NFL defensive backs, with 3 1/2. Archuleta wants to come back to St. Louis next year - if the Rams want him.
Slowed by injuries earlier in his career, Lewis hasn't come close to fulfilling the expectations that come with being a No. 12 overall pick. But he regained his starting job in Game 10 this season and has played solidly over the past month.
"Whether I'm here next year or somewhere else, I still love the game of football," Lewis said. "To me, that's the most important thing at the end of the day. Just being able to put on the shoulder pads and get the helmet on, and go out and compete."
Rams free agents
SS Adam Archuleta
P Bryan Barker
RB Aveion Cason
CB Terry Fair
CB Corey Ivy
DE Tyoka Jackson
DT Damione Lewis
QB Jamie Martin
LS-FB Chris Massey
OG Tom Nutten
DT Ryan Pickett
OL Rex Tucker
TE Roland Williams
Re: Rams' building blocks may fallJay Zygmunt scrawled "471" on the greaseboard in the Rams' draft room
Re: Rams' building blocks may fallOriginally Posted by HUbison
-12-30-2005 #4RamsFan16 Guest
Re: Rams' building blocks may fall
Bring back Arch, Jackson and PicketT!