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  1. #1
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    Rams' money gets real workout

    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    03/15/2006

    Remaking the Rams

    The flurry of big-money Rams free-agent signings since March 6:

    Defensive tackle LaRoi Glover
    Wide receiver Isaac Bruce
    Safety Corey Chavous
    Linebacker Will Witherspoon
    Cornerback Fakhir Brown
    * * * * * * *

    Over the course of nine days in March, the Rams engaged in a spending spree that would make the Washington Redskins proud. Well, almost.

    It began March 6, with the signing of defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, and continued unabated through Tuesday's signing of cornerback Fakhir Brown.

    In between, the Rams re-signed local icon Isaac Bruce at wide receiver and added strong safety Corey Chavous and middle linebacker Will Witherspoon.

    Those five contracts represent $19.5 million in signing bonus money and a potential commitment of $88 million overall. In their 11 previous seasons in St. Louis, the team has never done anything like that.

    Oh, there have been some blockbuster trades, both good and bad. ... Sending running back Jerome Bettis to Pittsburgh in 1996. ... Trading up to the No. 1 spot in the '97 draft to take left tackle Orlando Pace. ... Trading for running back Marshall Faulk in '99.

    And there have been a couple of quick starts to free agency, both good and not so good.

    In 1999, the Rams signed offensive guard Adam Timmerman and quarterback Trent Green in the opening days of free agency.

    Last year, the Rams signed linebackers Chris Claiborne and Dexter Coakley right out of the box.

    But in terms of a concentrated flurry of big-ticket personnel activity, nothing in "St. Louis" Rams history compares to what just took place. The only thing that comes relatively close was the 2001 draft weekend, when the Rams traded Green and tight end Roland Williams, and acquired defensive back Aeneas Williams in a sign-and-trade deal with the Arizona Cardinals. "We said it from the beginning," coach Scott Linehan said earlier this week. "I think I talked about it at my opening press conference - that we were going to work to retool this team. And hiring Jim (Haslett) and putting some key components into this defense was going to be a big part of our plan, especially in free agency.

    "We started to do that. ...These are some pretty key pieces right now."

    Glover, Witherspoon and Chavous will all start on defense; Brown will challenge for a starting spot as well.

    "I feel pretty fortunate," Linehan said. "I'm sure this isn't something that's going to happen every year. ..."

    Nor does he want it to.

    "Hopefully, we're not looking to replace (so many) players every year," Linehan said. "But I'm pretty happy with the way it's been going so far."

    In essence, the Rams are replacing Claiborne with Witherspoon; Adam Archuleta with Chavous; and Ryan Pickett with Glover.

    Meanwhile, Brown will have a chance to take a starting job away from Travis Fisher. Or even Jerametrius Butler, if Butler experiences any kind of setback in his return from knee surgery.

    In truth, Glover actually plays a different defensive tackle position than Pickett, who agreed to terms Wednesday on a free-agent contract with Green Bay. Glover plays what is called the "three-technique" position - a spot that relies on quickness and penetration skills as much as size and strength.

    It was important for Haslett, as the Rams' new defensive coordinator, to have an inside pass-rushing presence to make his scheme work. Glover, who has 71 1/2 sacks in 10 NFL seasons, is being counted on to fill that role. Pickett played nose tackle, where stuffing the run and the ability to take on double-team blocks are the main job requirements.

    Jimmy Kennedy, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2003 draft, looks like the heir apparent at nose tackle.

    "He's certainly got the build for it," Linehan said. "He's a big body that can be very explosive and play that position. I think our defensive coaches are creative enough to pull that off."

    At safety, Chavous doesn't run as well as Archuleta, who signed a $30 million deal Monday with Washington. Nor does he blitz as well as Archuleta, who had more sacks in five seasons with St. Louis (15), than did fellow 2001 draft pick Damione Lewis (10 1/2) at defensive tackle.

    (Which further explains why the Rams didn't make a free- agent contract offer to Lewis, who signed Monday with Carolina.)

    But Chavous should be better in coverage, and be a surer tackler than Archuleta. A heady, instinctive player, Chavous also is being counted on to keep the secondary lined up properly.

    Even though he coached the other side of the ball as offensive coordinator in Minnesota, Linehan got a working knowledge of Chavous in three seasons on the Vikings' staff from 2002-04.

    "Obviously, I'm pretty sold and convinced that the guy can do it," Linehan said. "And I think he felt the same way about coming to play for us. Having a prior relationship with these players is important. It certainly doesn't hurt."

    With Chavous entrenched at strong safety, second-year man Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe is the frontrunner for the free safety job.

    "He was a highly rated safety coming out last year," Linehan said. "I know Jim (Haslett) and his staff really held O.J. in high regard when they were evaluating him down at New Orleans. We just feel like he's a good young player that has a chance."

    But when it comes to retooling the defense, Witherspoon obviously is a centerpiece at middle linebacker.

    "His reputation speaks for itself," Linehan said. "He came into this league as a third-round draft pick and has earned the position that he's in today. He should be very proud of that. Now we have an opportunity to have a guy who's got four years of NFL experience starting in this league at a high level under his belt."

    And he's just 25 years old. Derek Smith, the other free-agent linebacker the Rams had targeted to play the middle, is 31. So Witherpoon could play through his entire six-year contract with the Rams before equaling Smith's current age.

    Although the "big-splash" stage of free agency has concluded for the Rams, the team still has needs to fill. Starting strongside linebacker ... backup quarterback ... punter ... kick returner ... third running back ... third offensive tackle ... depth on the defensive line ... depth at safety.

    "We've still got a long way to go," Linehan said. "There's still a lot of unknowns with our team. We've just got to continue to evaluate what's available (in free agency) and whether it's a good fit for us."

    But with the team's salary cap money dwindling and the draft approaching, Linehan says the formula changes: "Now we've got to say, 'Is this player better than someone we can get in the draft?'"


  2. #2
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    Re: Rams' money gets real workout

    Archuleta, who had more sacks in five seasons with St. Louis (15), than did fellow 2001 draft pick Damione Lewis (10 1/2) at defensive tackle.
    As if we needed more evidence of how poor D-Lew played here.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Rams' money gets real workout

    "I know Jim (Haslett) and his staff really held O.J. in high regard when they were evaluating him down at New Orleans
    But apparently not as high as they held Josh Bullocks.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Rams' money gets real workout

    In essence, the Rams are replacing Claiborne with Witherspoon; Adam Archuleta with Chavous; and Ryan Pickett with Glover.
    I am betting that Glover wasn't originally brought in to replace Pickett. It bums me out though because Glover is a QB Sacking Machine not a Run Stopping bull. I really hope the Rams know this and didn't sign him for his name. I have faith in Linehan and Haslett though.

    Jimmy Kennedy, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2003 draft, looks like the heir apparent at nose tackle.
    Lets hope. 6-4, 320lbs. He should be able to stuff the Run but we can't be to sure of this. He has shown signs of life about every other game. He has done much better than Lewis but I really wish we would have signed another DT that can help him out, say Sam Adams or Grady Jackson. Two proven Pro Bowl DTs that can mentor him and get him in the right direction.

    With Chavous entrenched at strong safety, second-year man Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe is the frontrunner for the free safety job.
    I thought I read that Chavous was the FS? Now they are saying that he is going to be the SS? I'm confused. Maybe now since Chavous is the Free Safety that would make a better chance of us drafting JDub. Although I heard Chavous played much better at Free Safety than Strong Safety. I'm not complaining though Atogwe looked well out there.
    RamsFan16

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