Rams have every reason to shop cautiously
By Jeff Gordon
STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
The Rams won’t be terribly aggressive in the free-agent marketplace because they don’t have to be.
Coach Scott Linehan doesn’t have a long list of needs. He is set at quarterback. He turned over the offensive line last year, turning to young players capable of serving the franchise well for years to come.
The emergence of center Brett Romberg and guards Mark Setterstrom and Richie Incognito last season allowed the Rams to cut ties with Adam Timmerman and free up some salary cap room to fill other needs.
Linehan’s front line talent is intact at receiver, running back and tight end. Rather than re-sign Kevin Curtis to big No. 1 receiver money, they will look for new No. 3 and No. 4 wideouts to compete for time behind Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
The Rams have their cornerstone pass rusher, Leonard Little, a solid middle linebacker in Will Witherspoon and a secondary with strong growth potential.
The growth of youngsters Tye Hill, Ron Bartell and O.J. Atogwe creates the potential for further defensive improvement this season.
What does Linehan really, really need? A pass rusher at right defensive end -- they picked up Detroit's James Hall for a draft pick on Friday -- and a run stopper at nose tackle. A more physical outside linebacker would be nice, too.
Some of that the Rams can get in the draft. Some early mock drafts have the Rams taking Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, but that youngster will likely improve his stock as the draft grows nearer.
It is hard to imagine him sitting there at No. 13. So Nebraska defensive end Adam Carriker or Florida linebacker Lawrence Timmons could become options instead.
The free agent marketplace will be treacherous, as ESPN.com’s Len Pasquarelli notes. He wrote:
“It's believed that as many as 10 franchises each have more than $30 million in cap room. And since NFL rules mandate that teams spend at least $92.6 million, the usual supply-and-demand structures will be skewed. Because the league demands that a large portion of money be spent, and because the pool of players on whom to spend it is so diluted, veterans who in the past would have been considered second-line players are going to reap the rewards.”
As a result of this, the Rams are being cautious. In the ESPN ranking of the top 30 free agents, the Rams weren’t listed as a possible destination for any of them.
Fans pining for the return of middle linebacker London Fletcher-Baker –- which would move Witherspoon outside -– will be disappointed to learn that the Redskins have been all over him.
Defensive end Patrick Kerney, the top pass-rushing lineman in the free-agent marketplace, can’t really play the right side. So Denver and Seattle are getting first crack at him.
There isn’t much depth in the marketplace, especially along the defensive line, and we’re guessing that capmaster Jay Zygmunt won’t allow the coaches to get carried away with their bidding.
P-D Rams reporter Jim Thomas notes that Tampa Bay defensive end DeWayne White could be a nice fit. Chicago Tribune NFL columnist Don Pierson agrees with Thomas’ assessment that Bears defensive tackle Ian Scott could be a nice fit here, although it seems Cincinnati, Kansas City and Atlanta are more interested.
Overall, though, this is a good year NOT to be filling multiple holes.
Most of the Rams other needs are easily addressed. Re-signing Todd Steussie would give the offensive line needed depth at guard and tackle.
There is a glut of back-up running backs on the market, so finding help for Steven Jackson won’t be hard. There are plenty of wide receivers available in the draft, so fans shouldn’t fret about the exit of Curtis and Shaun McDonald.
For the Rams to break away from the gravitational pull of .500 next season, the team doesn’t have to make a lot of additions. It has to make the right additions at a few key spots.
The Rams offseason ought to be simple. But will it be productive? Their decision-making starts now.
Re: Rams have every reason to shop cautiously
NT, NT, NT ????? To put this defense in the top half of the league we're going to need a bonafide nose tackle type of a DT. With the recent failures at that position through the draft I for one an leary of picking one at the 13th spot or moving up to get one. What are the other options though ??? We know Kennedy is not the guy for that spot, but who is ???
The only shot I quess is trusting our new personnell department that they have MUCH more of a clue with evaluating defense lineman talent. Getting a beast to man the middle for years to come is the key for this D to take the next step.