St. Louis Rams Team Report
St. Louis Rams Team Report
—There will likely be some experimenting going on when the Rams begin their Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on May 18.
With the Rams negotiating a contract with linebacker Na'il Diggs for the last several weeks, most of the speculation had him playing on the weak side (WILL) if he ended up joining the Rams.
However, after officially signing with the Rams Wednesday, Diggs said the plan at the beginning will have him on the strong side (SAM), where he has mostly played during his four seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
"I'm comfortable at either one," Diggs said. "I think starting out, the SAM is probably where I'll be. Where we go from there, we're not really sure. I've played both. I'm really comfortable at both, so either way really works for me. I think right now SAM is kind of where we talked about on the visit. We'll see once we get rolling."
With a reputation as being solid in run defense and coupled with his size, the strong side makes sense.
He said, "I'm 6-4, 240 pounds and I guess handling the big linemen, these big backs have just become part of my forte because of my size. I've been able to stay in there and hold off blocks and hold on the blocks more than maybe a smaller linebacker would or should even do."
Of course, he comes to St. Louis after having a relationship with defensive coordinator Ken Flajole, who was his linebackers coach in Carolina until Flajole was hired by head coach Steve Spagnuolo last year.
Diggs said Flajole helped him in his continued development as a player.
"He was my linebackers coach for three years and he really kind of emphasized a lot of football, just learning the game itself," Diggs said. "He knew the skills were there. As with any other professional player, the skills are usually there; it's a lot of the football sense that with different teams and different schemes that kind of change.
"You have to get used to the lingo and the talk that he helped me a lot with when I first got to Carolina. We've had a great relationship since then and hopefully we'll continue it in St. Louis."
Despite the Rams having won just six games over the last three seasons, Diggs believes things will improve under Spagnuolo. Asked what attracted him to the Rams, he said, "I think just the staff and the organization itself is first class. I was pretty impressed by that when I first got there and I think it's a great opportunity to make a difference for this team and get things rolling back on track. I want to be part of that."
His first name means "A Successful One" in Arabic, and Diggs said of his 10-year career, "It's taken me to great places and I've had a great time. Now I'm at a point where I kind of want to look to help a team more than myself. I'd like to make a difference on a team and really just improve just the all-around capacities of this particular team. Not only get a win, but I want to be successful there at the same time. I know there are a lot of expectations for the St. Louis Rams and the city and I want to help them achieve those."
So, what took so long getting a deal done?
Diggs said, "I think just the fact that free agency, there's a lot on management's plate with this draft thing going on and the owners' meetings in Florida. A lot of things were happening at one time on top of our going back and forth with my agent and them, getting a deal finalized was really about it. There was really no other story behind it."
He concluded, "I'm very competitive. I've won a lot of games. My expectations are to continue to win a lot of games."
Early Easter morning, Marc Bulger and wife Mavis welcomed their first child into the world, a daughter. It was a nice Easter Sunday for the Bulger family.
Early in the evening came the move that stunned the football world: the Washington Redskins' acquisition of quarterback Donovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles. Monday morning, as Bulger was celebrating his 33rd birthday, the Rams opted to wait no longer and terminated Bulger's contract, making him a free agent.
His $8.5 million salary for 2010, which made a trade problematical, disappears, and the Rams have no further financial obligations to him.
Obviously, the trade had ramifications for the Rams on several levels. The Redskins had been in play as a potential landing spot for Bulger. Washington's plan, even if they were to decide to draft a quarterback, was to bring in a veteran to start and potentially deal restricted free agent Jason Campbell if there was a taker.
Most important, Washington's move also took them out of play as a realistic trade partner with the Rams involving the first and fourth picks in the first round of the April 22 draft. In reality, it was unlikely a trade would have been accomplished because of the premium the Rams would have placed on the first pick.
Sending a second-round pick to the Eagles for McNabb left Washington with just four selections in the draft and none in the second and third rounds. They simply had little ammunition to pull off a trade to move up three spots in which the Rams would lose their chance at getting the best quarterback in the draft.
The Redskins could still have interest in selecting Sam Bradford if he were available at fourth overall. However, even though Rams general manager Billy Devaney claims no decision has been made, it's difficult to imagine the Rams taking any player other than Bradford. The only thing keeping Bulger on the roster was the possibility that the Rams wouldn't come out of the draft with a quarterback.
Still, the Rams had a private workout Thursday with Texas quarterback Colt McCoy in Austin, and they will attend Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen's personal Pro Day in South Bend. The Rams' private workout with Bradford is April 19.
Meanwhile, after being granted his request to be released, Bulger leaves the Rams with the second-most passing yards in club history with 22,814, but struggled the last three seasons as the offense deteriorated around him and the team won just six of 48 games.
In 2006, the first with Scott Linehan as head coach, Bulger passed for 4,301 yards, with 24 touchdowns, only eight interceptions and a passer rating of 92.9. Bulger went to the Pro Bowl, the Rams won their final three games to finish 8-8 and they appeared primed for improvement the following season.
However, injuries to the offensive line started in training camp and continued in the season opener when left tackle Orlando Pace was lost for the season. The next week, there were three changes on the line, and Bulger suffered cracked ribs and a knee injury against the San Francisco *****. The Rams used 13 different linemen that season at 18 different positions.
In 2006, wide receivers Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Kevin Curtis combined for 223 receptions, 2,765 yards and 17 touchdowns. But Curtis left after that season as a free agent, Bruce was released following 2007 and Holt last year. This past season, the Rams finished the season with only one wide receiver on the roster — Donnie Avery — that was with the team in preseason training camp. Bulger was sacked 138 times the last four seasons.
Bulger was unavailable for comment, saying he doesn't plan to talk until he signs with a new team. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and Devaney, busy in draft meetings, commented only in a press release.
Said Spagnuolo, "It is always hard to part ways with someone you care for and appreciate. I was fortunate as a first-year head coach to have Marc on our team. I will always be indebted to him for his work ethic, character and leadership."
Devaney said, "I would like to thank Marc Bulger for his professional attitude. Since I arrived in 2008, Marc showed leadership on the field and in the community. We appreciate all that he has done and we wish him the best."
Now Bulger and the Rams are starting fresh. Condon had already heard from other teams by the night of Bulger's release and had said previously teams have been waiting for him to be available.
Noting the irony of the release coming on his birthday, Condon said, "It's not a bad birthday present at all. I'm happy to have him free."
—With the offseason conditioning program continuing, it won't be long until the on-field work for the Rams begins. An agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association limits OTAs to 14 in the offseason, not including one mandatory veteran's minicamp. For veterans, the conditioning program and OTAs are considered voluntary.
The weekend after the draft, there will be a minicamp for rookies, undrafted free agents and selected veterans. The mandatory minicamp is the weekend of June 5.
The Rams' 14 OTAs will be May 18, May 20, May 24-25, May 27, June 1-3, June 7-8 and June 14-17.
Rookies can join their teams for the OTAs provided their schools have concluded finals.
Training camp will begin 15 days before the first preseason game, which is expected to be either Aug. 12, 13 or 14 against Minnesota.
—Projected as a second- or third-round pick, Southern Cal wide receiver Damian Williams is scheduled to visit the Rams early next week. He will have a workout with the Atlanta Falcons Saturday and will also visit the Denver Broncos next week.
The 6-1, 197-pound Williams enters the draft as a junior and had 70 receptions for 1,010 yards and six touchdowns last season when he was a team captain. He also averaged 14.2 yards on punt returns and scored two touchdowns.
Pro Football Weekly's draft preview notes that Williams would fit best as a flanker in a West Coast offense, which is what the Rams play.
—Unrestricted free-agent DE Leonard Little is still deciding whether to continue playing. Little was scheduled to make a visit to New Orleans in the early stages of free agency, but canceled it and hasn't made any visits.
While spending time with his family, Little told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he asked his agent not to talk to teams or do "anything dealing with football right now."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "A couple of weeks ago we were at (Ndamukong) Suh's workout and we left and said, 'Oh my gosh, this guy's really something!' A week before that we watched Gerald McCoy and it was like, 'Oh my gosh, this guy's really something!' It's like a beauty contest, you can't go wrong. One is more beautiful than the other." — General manager Billy Devaney.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With the first overall selection in the draft, the Rams will be looking closely at several options as the draft approaches.
Paramount in their decision-making will be the quarterback situation after the release of Marc Bulger. A.J. Feeley was signed as a free agent, and '09 rookies Keith Null and Mike Reilly are the only other quarterbacks under contract.
The Rams are still looking at quarterbacks Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy, but even if they decided to go in a direction other than Sam Bradford with the first overall selection, there's no guarantee they would get Clausen or McCoy in the second round.
1. Wide receiver: The returning group has a bunch of complementary receivers, but no proven standout. The Rams have to find a way to score points and take the defensive pressure away from running back Steven Jackson.
2. Quarterback: Marc Bulger was released. Will the first round bring Sam Bradford? Those questions will dominate the next two weeks leading up to the draft.
3. Defensive lineman: There is a need for both a presence inside and on the edge where the future of end Leonard Little is unknown. James Hall was re-signed, but a younger pass rusher would be a benefit to the defense.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
—QB Kyle Boller was inconsistent when he played in 2009 and had injury issues. After the signing of A.J. Feeley, he won't be back.
—S Clinton Hart was with the team in the last half of the season and didn't play much. A one-year deal would be a possibility although unlikely.
—DE Leonard Little ended the season with a knee injury, but remains the team's best pass rusher when healthy. He canceled a scheduled visit to New Orleans a few weeks ago and it has been quiet since. Little is still deciding whether to continue playing.
—TE Randy McMichael was a huge disappointment as a receiver because of drops and won't be offered a new contract.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
—S Eric Bassey (not tendered as RFA) missed the 2009 season because of a knee injury.
—*RB Samkon Gado (not tendered as RFA) is versatile and solid on special teams.
—*DT Gary Gibson (not tendered as RFA) was solid in the rotation, but ended the season on injured reserve with a broken ankle. Could be back for league minimum.
—LS Ryan Neill (not tendered as RFA) did a good job as Chris Massey's replacement, but is now looking elsewhere after Massey was re-signed.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
—*S Oshiomogho Atogwe (tendered at $1.226M with no compensation) was the franchise player last season, but the low tender gives him the chance to test the market. He has not been participating in the team's offseason conditioning program.
—*OT Alex Barron (tendered at $2.73M with second-round pick as compensation) has had penalty issues, but is durable and has never missed a start because of injury. The Rams have let it be known they would be willing to trade him, and Barron has been absent from the team's offseason conditioning program.
—NT Clifton Ryan (tendered at $1.684M with second-round pick as compensation) isn't outstanding, but is a consistent hard worker whose ability is needed at a position lacking depth.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
—DE C.J. Ah You (tendered at $395,000) missed the second half of the season with a knee injury, but prior to that he was contributing in the line rotation and on special teams.
—LB Larry Grant (tendered at $470,000) didn't progress as coaches hoped, but he did contribute on special teams.
—WR Jordan Kent (tendered at $470,000) quickly became one of the team's best special-teams players in coverage.
—OT Ryan McKee (tendered at $395,000) joined the team late in the season, but could compete at right tackle.
—S David Roach (tendered at $395,000) was decent on special teams, but not much else. Will at least compete for a roster spot again.
—*DE Victor Adeyanju: RFA; (tendered at $1.176M with fourth-round pick as compensation); $1.176M/1 yr.
—CB Quincy Butler: ERFA; $470,000/1 yr.
—S Craig Dahl: RFA (had been tendered at $1.01M with no compensation); $3.6M/3 yrs, $755,000 RB 2010.
—RB Kenneth Darby: ERFA; $470,000/1 yr.
—TE Daniel Fells: Not tendered as RFA; $770,000/1 yr.
—DE James Hall: UFA; $8.25M/3 yrs, $1.895M RB 2010.
—LS Chris Massey: UFA; $4.4M/4 yrs, $250,000 RB 2010/$500,000 RB 2011.
—*OG Mark Setterstrom: Not tendered as RFA; $597,500/1 yr, $52,500 RB.
—LB David Vobora: ERFA; $470,000/1 yr.
—LB Na'il Diggs: FA Panthers; terms unknown.
—*CB Kevin Dockery: Not tendered as RFA by Giants; $630,000/1 yr.
—QB A.J. Feeley: UFA Panthers; $6M/2 yrs, $2.25M RB 2010/$500,000 RB 2011.
—C Hank Fraley: FA Browns; $3.055M/3 yrs, $200,000 RB 2010.
—TE Darcy Johnson: Not tendered as RFA by Giants; $470,000/1 yr.
—DT Fred Robbins: UFA Giants; $11.25M/3 yrs, $3.395M RB 2010.
—QB Marc Bulger (released).
—LB Paris Lenon: UFA Cardinals; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
—*WR Ruvell Martin: Not tendered as RFA/Seahawks; 1 yr, terms unknown.
—DT LaJuan Ramsey (released).
—CB Jonathan Wade: Not tendered as RFA/Lions; terms unknown.
Re: St. Louis Rams Team Report
Nice team report. Just found out today Bulger was released, I'm saddened. :(
Re: St. Louis Rams Team Report
I'm surprised Ramsey was released, guess I didn't notice that before. I thought he and Gibson both played well at DT.