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    Rams Busy Despite Delay In Free Agency

    Rams busy despite delay in free agency

    BY JIM THOMAS
    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Last year at this time — or five days into the free agency period — the Rams had signed quarterback A.J. Feeley and defensive tackle Fred Robbins. Safety Brodney Pool visited but wasn't offered a contract, and the Rams were trying to keep tight end Daniel Fells from signing with New England or Denver.

    Two years ago at this time, center Jason Brown had been signed, safety James Butler had visited and was in the process of signing, and the Rams were trying to prevent cornerback Ron Bartell from leaving for New Orleans,

    As for this year, the Rams and 31 other NFL teams are stuck in neutral. The start of the free agency and trading period is on hold because of the stalemate in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

    That made for a more relaxing weekend at Rams Park. There were no late-hour talks with agents, no wee-hour agreements, no opening salvo of player visits that characterize the feeding frenzy start of free agency.

    But it's not as if the "gone fishin' " sign has been posted in Earth City.

    General manager Billy Devaney was in over the weekend grinding tape in preparation for the draft. "There's always a ton of tape work to do," he said. "There's guys that weren't invited to the (NFL scouting) combine that are still really good prospects that we've got to do our due diligence on."

    And this week, with the pro days on college campuses in full swing, Devaney and the scouting department have fanned out over the country. Devaney was on the road Tuesday. Starting today, members of Steve Spagnuolo's coaching staff will start doing the same.

    The team's free agency game plan — or actually, game plans — were finalized a few weeks ago.

    "Of course, it's a little unknown right now who qualifies for unrestricted free agency and who doesn't," Spagnuolo said. "So you've got to really have two plans."

    One plan assumes that unrestricted free agents are those with four years experience in the league (which has been the norm during the free agency era).

    The other plan includes only players with six years experience in the league (which was the case last offseason during an uncapped year).

    "Once we got past the free-agent evaluations, which was about three or four weeks ago, then it's strictly football and scheme in the morning, and college (draft) evaluations in the afternoon," Spagnuolo said, speaking of his coaching staff.

    The morning football/scheme work began at the start of the offseason with the coaching staff going through tape of all 16 games from start to finish — taking notes and looking for plays that might be used for teaching tapes this coming season.

    "So if the linebacker coach wants to do a tackling tape, as he watches: 'That's a good one. We'll put that one on there.' Or, 'That's a bad tackle.' "

    About three weeks ago that process ended, and the coaches started looking at "cutups" of situational play. As an example, Spagnuolo said, "The defensive coaches would take all our Cover 3 snaps, evaluate it. What can we do better? While they're doing that, they're also updating the playbook."

    The process has been a little different this year on offense. At Spagnuolo's request, new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels spent two weeks watching tape of last year's Rams games with the offensive staff.

    "And basically, Josh just listened and absorbed," Spagnuolo said. "(Wide receivers coach) Nolan Cromwell might say, 'Here's how we did this. We thought this was pretty good.' Or (tight ends coach) Frank Leonard might say, 'We had our tight ends do this on this route.'

    "Josh just kind of picked the things he saw that we did well here. It was like a clinic for him, and then we started to dig into the stuff that he's used to."

    In other words, now the rest of the offensive staff is listening to McDaniels go through the plays and schemes he has run in the past at New England and Denver and plans to use here.

    "And when it's all said and done, there'll be a little bit of meshing of that," Spagnuolo said.

    The playbook itself, Spagnuolo added, "is being done as we go. But it's not done. And most teams wouldn't be (done). The defense doesn't have the finished 2011 playbook right now. You don't want to rush into that."

    As for Devaney and the scouting department, it's all draft all the time now that free agency is on hold. Devaney came back from the scouting combine last week convinced there was even more talent at the top of the draft than he originally thought.

    "Boy, the depth," Devaney said. "I think it's going to wind up being a really good, solid draft for a couple of rounds. There are a lot of intriguing guys — certainly through Round 2 and even almost to the bottom of Round 3. There is really good quality.

    "There's a lot of defensive ends — 4-3 defensive ends, which hasn't been the case in years past. Running backs, wideouts are deep. Some good DB possibilities. So we were excited coming out (of the combine). Guys worked out a lot better than we thought they were going to."

    So there's no excuse, then, not to come out of this draft with a couple of starters.

    "That's the plan," Devaney said.


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    Alec22's Avatar
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    Re: Rams Busy Despite Delay In Free Agency

    Hard not to read inbetween the lines if only just a little bit when Spags talks about McD no?

    Just a little?

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