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Rams in good shape to deal with NFL's current crisis
BY JEFF GORDON
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
The Rams have done one thing very, very well since 1999. With Jay Zygmunt working the numbers, this franchise has always managed its salary cap well.
That is why the team has remained consistently competitive during that span. That is why the team was able to build a champion in 1999, then retool completely to win another NFC Championship two years later.
And that is why the Rams are reasonably positioned to deal with the NFL’s current crisis. Under the old rules, the Rams are one move away (restructuring Isaac Bruce’s deal) from having excellent flexibility.
If the league and the NFLPA can’t resolve the current negotiating impasse, teams will have to get their payrolls under the projected 2006 cap by Thursday. The Rams wouldn’t have a big problem doing that, but several other NFL squads would have to unload significant talent to comply.
The free-agent marketplace could suddenly be awash in big-name players. And if the current deal isn’t extended by Thursday, the 2007 season would be “uncapped” -– creating an opportunity for the wealthiest and most aggressive owners to go crazy.
Daniel Snyder, come on down. Jerry Jones, have at it. What a show that would be!
With that possibility looming, teams would tread carefully in the 2006 free-agent market while adjusting to the new accounting rules and preparing for the looming free-for-all.
Here are some questions to consider:
Which players have already been turned loose for cap reasons?
Among the better players cut loose so far are Jets cornerback Ty Law, Jets linebacker Jason Fabini, Giants linebacker Barrett Green, Patriots cornerback Duane Starks, Colts defensive tackle Josh Williams, Bills offensive lineman Mike Williams, Browns defensive tackle Kenard Lang, Raiders safety Derrick Gibson, Chargers safety Jerry Wilson and ***** cornerback Ahmed Plummer,
Which players could become free agents?
ESPN.com reports that the Chiefs could be hard-pressed to keep all-pro guard Will Shields. Also, the Falcons could turn loose running back Warrick Dunn.
Other potential casualties include Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, Panthers running back Stephen Davis, Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins, Raiders safety Derrick Gibson, Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Bears tight end Desmond Clark, Broncos defensive tackle Gerard Warren, Chiefs safety Jerome Woods, Chiefs safety Eric Warfield, Texans nose tackle Seth Payne.
Also: Dolphins cornerback Reggie Howard, Dolphins tackle Damion McIntosh, Jets linebacker Eric Barton, Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, Steelers running back Duce Staley, Titans tackle Brad Hopkins, Giants safety Shaun Williams, Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington and Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks.
Which Rams will be cap casualties?
Failed linebacker Chris Claiborne is the most obvious choice. The Rams would save $1.5 million against the cap by dumping him. To keep Marshall Faulk for another year, the team might have to finesse his contract again. Helping their case is Faulk's seeming unwillingness to play anywhere else at this point in his career.
Where do the Rams stand on their free agents?
Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and safety Adam Archuleta hold some interest to the new coaching staff. Pickett’s value may not soar beyond the Rams’ means, as initially feared, if the market is flooded with proven defensive linemen.
And it is hard to imagine Archuleta drumming up much interest after a couple of mediocre, injury-marred seasons.
Could the Rams rebuild their defense via free agency?
There could be plenty of appealing names up for grabs, but again, teams will move cautiously. It is difficult to predict where the market will settle.
Many of the players likely to be released were making lots of money. Advancing age, declining production and/or injury histories will make a lot of players available.
The Rams must be careful to buy performance, not reputation, with their ’06 investments.
How else might the Rams benefit from the new rules?
Players would have to wait six years, instead of four, to become unrestricted free agents. As Jim Thomas reported, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa would have to wait two additional years to become a free agent.
Keeping good young players would be easier under the new rules. So if the young Rams defensive players actually pan out, that would be a very good thing.
Re: Rams in good shape to deal with NFL's current crisisCould the Rams rebuild their defense via free agency?
Re: Rams in good shape to deal with NFL's current crisis
yeah...which brings me to why we should DRAFT V.davis, I think with the right guidance, like I've been saying from day one, our D will be better than ever!Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams