Columnist Jeff Gordon
(E-mail a "Letter to Gordo")
Receiver Isaac Bruce is a free agent, exploring other options around the NFL. The Rams opted to cut him rather than pay him a $2 million signing bonus.
Kicker Jeff Wilkins is retired. Rather than battle chronic leg problems -– as well as training camp competition -– he decided to pack it in.
“Over the years, the Rams have become my family,” Wilkins said in a prepared statement released by the team Friday. “I have been truly blessed to play this game for 14 years, and I have met some great players along the way that have not only been my teammates, but who have also become great friends. I have had a great relationship with Jay Zygmunt, and coach Scott Linehan and coach Al Roberts have been very supportive from Day 1. Those are some of the things that I will miss most.”
The surviving Doughnut Brother, Andy McCollum, is also a free agent. Maybe he’ll retire. Maybe he would return under the right circumstances.
These are tough times for sentimentalists in Ram Nation. As this 3-13 team begins the arduous task of rebuilding, many fans realize that wholesale change can be bittersweet.
They understand this team needs a massive overhaul. They realize that the “Greatest Show on Turf” days are long gone.
They are excited about the possible additions through free agency and the NFL Draft. The new guy in charge of personnel, Billy Devaney, arrived with a great resume and a tremendous work ethic.
The Rams have cleared an impressive amount of salary cap space, enough to place competitive bids on top free agents. (One example: Kicker Josh Brown has killed this team over the years, so Linehan will definitely want the franchise to bid on him.)
This team also owns the second overall pick in the coming draft, so the Rams are certain to add an impact player from the college ranks. All this is good news for fans frustrated by the team’s collapse during the 2007 season.
But people hate to see their favorite players exit Rams Park. So many key players from the Rams’ glory days are long gone.
Kurt Warner is a Gridbird now, mentoring Matt Leinart. London Fletcher is a Redskin. Marshall Faulk and Roland Williams are TV analysts. Adam Timmerman farms.
Kevin Carter is in limbo for the moment, since the Buccaneers just cut him for cap reasons. Mike Jones is coaching at the high school level. Ricky Proehl is developing a youth sports park in Greensboro, N.C.
Time marches on.
The Rams cut Bruce once before and got him back, but this time could be different. This team is looking to add speed and youth to a group that got old. The Rams are still committed to making the Drew Bennett signing work.
Mike Martz is the offensive coordinator in San Francisco now -– so nobody was shocked to hear that the ***** want to chat with Bruce. Wouldn’t it be weird to see Isaac continue his Hall of Fame career with this team’s archrival?
(Judging from the anger expressed in our Rams Talk form, “weird” only begins to describe feelings of Rams fans. Folks don’t want to see the last remaining Los Angeles Ram depart before he is ready to. They don’t want to see him finish his career as a 49er. The business side of this business stinks.)
Offensive coordinator Al Saunders provides a strong tie to the good old days. So do receiver Torry Holt and tackle Orlando Pace.
Perhaps old friend Trent Green could return as the back-up quarterback, since the Todd Collins Option didn’t materialize for the Rams. Collins opted to remain in Washington, where he finished last season as the starter.
But nostalgia won’t guide this franchise as it attempts a makeover. The Rams are starting over. Don’t be surprised if Devaney, Zygmunt, Linehan and Co. turn over half the roster from last season.
As we’ve seen, this league is no place for old men -– especially when a team tanks like the Rams did in ’07.