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Rams make big catches in free agency
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Friday, Mar. 16 2007
Only one NFL team had as many as four receivers catch 45 passes (or more) last
season. Two weeks into the free agency period, the Rams have five such
receivers on their roster.
Tight end Randy McMichael caught 62 passes last season for Miami; wide receiver
Drew Bennett caught 46 for Tennessee. Those free-agent pickups have been added
to an already-potent St. Louis offense that features Torry Holt (93 catches in
2006), Steven Jackson (90), and Isaac Bruce (74).
Throw Jackson's rushing skills into the equation. Consider that quarterback
Marc Bulger is coming off a career year even though he struggled early learning
a new offense. Factor in the strong finish to 2006: The Rams averaged 27.5
points a game when offensive coordinator Greg Olson took over play-calling
duties for the final six games.
With a reliable backup to Jackson, and more depth on the offensive line, St.
Louis could have one of the NFL's elite offenses in 2007. Greatest Show on Turf
II? Probably not. But the beauty of those Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz offenses
was the multiplicity of options. It looks as if the Rams are heading that way
At 6 feet 5, Bennett will be more of a threat over the middle and in the red
zone than the Rams have had lately. On paper, McMichael should be the best
receiving tight end the Rams have had since the move to St. Louis. Beyond that,
he's an excellent pass blocker and a good run blocker.
The Rams have invested a potential $30 million in Bennett and $11 million in
McMichael. So far, they are the big-ticket items during a busy start to the
free agency period for St. Louis. The Rams signed (or traded for) seven players
during the first week of free agency. Those seven players represent a potential
investment of $54.18 million overall, and $11.83 million in signing bonus
money. Those moves have sliced the Rams' cap room in half, from $22.9 million
in cap space at the start of free agency to the current $11.4 million.
Besides Bennett and McMichael, the Rams have signed running back Travis Minor,
safety Todd Johnson and punter B.J. Sander. They've re-signed offensive lineman
Todd Steussie, and traded a fifth-round draft pick to Detroit for defensive end
Minor and Johnson will be backups, and come to St. Louis with reputations as
good special-teams players. Sander is a developmental player who will compete
for a starting job only if free agent Matt Turk goes elsewhere. Steussie is the
team's third offensive tackle — a necessity in terms of depth. Hall, who is
coming off shoulder surgery, figures to be the starting right end.
Where's the defense?
Other than Hall (and Johnson) not much has been done to address the defense.
Yes, the defense that finished 31st in the league against the run and 23rd in
total defense last season.
Hall will help at right end, where at worst he's a solid addition at a position
that was several steps short of solid last season. But another end is needed
for the rotation, regardless of whether it's a speed rusher, or an every-down
end. It could end up being Grant Wistrom, or a draft pick.
But what about nose tackle? Jimmy Kennedy is the only nose under contract, and
by all accounts, his play was disappointing in 2006. The Rams targeted two
defensive tackles in free agency — Oakland's Terdell Sands and New Orleans'
Hollis Thomas. Both were re-signed by their respective teams before they
reached the market. Similarly, the Rams coveted Cincinnati's Justin Smith (the
University of Missouri product) at defensive end. But Smith was given the
franchise tag by the Bengals, effectively taking him off the market.
The remaining options at tackle and end in free agency aren't very appealing to
the Rams. Despite rumors to the contrary, the Rams never were interested in
Tennessee free agent Robaire Smith. As for Chicago's Ian Scott, the Rams
blocked him very well when the teams met in a Monday night game last Dec. 11.
Rumors about Kris Jenkins voiding his contract in Carolina never materialized.
So barring some unforeseen trade, this all points to the Rams taking a
defensive tackle in the draft — if not in the first round, then almost
certainly on the first day.
Re: Rams make big catches in free agency
About McMichael: "...an excellent pass blocker..."
I love it.
Re: Rams make big catches in free agency
Are you mad? Brandon Manaeulongname takes the cake.