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    Thomas Chat --Jan 27th

    Chris: The Rams have had MLB issues ever since they let London Fletcher walk without getting anything in return. If they are able to address the O-line through FA (Gross/Brown) doesn't it just make sense to take Ray Maluaga at #2 if that is what you need?

    I am sick of hearing he might not play on passing downs, or it is unheard of to take a LB that high. The Rams should make their own path and draft the guy that makes the most sense for what they are trying to accomplish.

    Thoughts?
    Jim Thomas: Chris--You just don't pay $50 million for a guy, if he's sitting on the bench on second-and-long and third-and-long because he can't cover his shadow.
    bjf: The Rams have a history of getting rid of excellent middle linebackers in their prime (Hacksaw Reynolds, London Flecther) if they find another one will they realize how important it is to keep him?
    Jim Thomas: We can only hope. The Rams have gone through some MLBs since Fletcher left.
    BrandonRAMS: Hello Jim,

    Quick one, is Michael Crabtree really better than Jeremy Maclin? In what areas are they differant and the same? Who would you choose?

    Thanks
    Jim Thomas: Interesting questions. Maclin is faster and has return ability. Crabtree is bigger. There's almost always a transition year (or two) in the NFL. Maclin would give you more of an instant contribution because of his return ability. But with his size Crabtree might be more difficult to defend, particularly in the red zone. I'm not sure just yet who I would choose.
    Joe Stafford: Jim, kudo's to all the beat writers the post-dispatch during the Coach hiring. It was very refreshing to not have the espn-nfl network hype machine type of reporting here.
    Jim Thomas: Thanks.
    John: After watching the Rams try and go the way of speed over size on defense for so many years I think it is time for size over speed. What do you think?
    Jim Thomas: Doesn't really matter what I think. But I think Billy Devaney agrees with you, at least in terms of the team needing to get bigger on both sides of the ball.
    Petey123: Jim, are the Rams still counting on the stadium improvements to get done this year? There have been no sketches or any stories about this. Thanks
    Jim Thomas: I wrote a story on this about a month at: It was part of a story on ticket prizes being frozen for 2009. Here are excerpts from the Dec. 24 story (Wallace is VP Bob Wallace)

    . . . .But at a minimum, there will be new scoreboards in both the end zones, upgrades in some of the club seat lounges, and a major paint job to help lighten up the atmosphere in the dome.

    "I'm 99.9 percent sure that we'll have two new scoreboards that will be substantially better than what's there now," Wallace said. "In this market we use as benchmarks what the other venues have. These (new scoreboards) will be similar if not better to what's in Busch (Stadium) or the new Chaifetz Arena."

    As part of the upgrades some areas will be opened up where the current scoreboards are situated, allowing fans in the club areas there to view the field. That wasn't the case before; fans in those club areas could only watch the game on TV.

    Another upgrade possibility is the creation of public space on the lower level of the stadium, creating an area where PSL holders can watch the game in what Wallace termed a sports bar atmosphere.

    The exact plan for the upgrades will be finalized once the bids come back. "You may not be able to do everything," Wallace said. "You may be able to do a little more. You may say that something's not a good use of the money. But we're pretty far along with the things that I've mentioned."

    Wallace said bids are expected to come back from contractors in mid-January, with work scheduled to begin almost immediately thereafter.
    Ed in Vancouver Canada: PLEASE BREAKDOWN THE HIRES FROM YESTERDAY, AND DID WE HIRE OUR NEW CAP GUY...THX
    Jim Thomas: I know nothing about Leonard. I've heard some good things about Curl regardless of what some KC fans think. I mean, my gosh, he wasn't exactly working with top-shelf material at QB. Even with his special teams duties in Minny, Ferraro has a long background on defense.
    But I really don't have a strong knowledge on any of these guys. And in today's NFL, access is so limited to assistants that it's heard for even beat writers in the cities that cover these guys to have a strong sense of their plusses and minuses or even their personalities. In many NFL cities, assistant coaches other than the coordinators aren't even made available to the media. I hope that's not the case here with Spagnuolo. Way too many of these new coaches are control freaks.
    I don't think Warrick is the cap guy.
    Ed in Vancouver Canada: I hate to say it but I think we need to cut bait w/; Pace,LL& Holt, love these guys but in order to improve we need to do this...Maybe keep Holt to help w/ groom the young guns, but the others we need that money to build our team with multy mid level type free agents, cause we know Billy won't go fishing for the big fish this off season...Do you agree???

    Gut the bottom half of our roster should be our mandate!!!
    Jim Thomas: While agreeing strongly that the team needs to add a starting tackle, I would think long and hard before cutting bait with Pace and Holt. Both classy persons and elite competitors.
    Greg: Jim, When football experts talk about the failure or success of a draft, generally speaking are they only referencing the 1st and 2nd rounds or do they factor in all 7 rounds?
    Jim Thomas: I don't know about everybody else, but I always try to look at all seven rounds. Sometimes we get too fixated on just the first round or the first and second rounds.
    Fearsome: Hi Jim, and thanks as usual for these weekly chats

    Any word on a Rams mascot? I can't imagine it costs that much to have someone in a muscle-bound Ram costume entertaining the fans. That Cards mascot in Arizona is a riot, he shoots t-shirts into the crowd, rides around in a 4 wheeler, backflips, etc. About the only time I was smiling the last couple years in AZ while watching the Cards kill the Rams was when I was watching the mascot. It makes the whole experience more enjoyable.

    Little stuff like that helps keep the fans coming to the gates ( of course winning will cure all that as well )
    Jim Thomas: I think a mascot is a great idea. By the way. Did you like the drumline.
    NYC Rams Fan: Hi Jim,

    Two quick questions:

    1. Not to dwell, but some writers from the STL PD have said that they thought Haslett could have done the job well with a new front office, and chance to pick his own personnel. That said, would his knowledge of the roster and performance of the team have given him a significant advantage over Spags this upcoming season, or is it something that one full offseason for Spagnuolo will make a non-issue?

    2. You say that you think that the coordinators that Spags has brought in are bright and have done a good job, but in general, how do you distinguish between a coach bringing in "bright talent" and a coach like Linehan who brings in what the PD writers so eloquently labeled as FOSL's (Friends Of Scott Linenhan)?
    Jim Thomas: 1.) No doubt Spagnuolo will be playing catch-up on personnel. And he has Devaney to help him out, and no doubt Devaney has a sense for what this roster needs. But only time will tell if Spagnuolo has a good enough sense for the roster needs once free agency and the draft hits.
    2.) Again, these coaches could end up being FOSSes, or Friends of Steve Spagnuolo. I could be wrong, but when colleague Bernie Miklasz coined the term FOSLs, I think he was referring more to players (such as Richard Owens) that Scott Linehan had a past association with.
    Greg: Hello Jim! All things being equal (i.e. salary cap issues are taken care of), what 3 or 4 free agent moves would you make for the Rams and then, after those free agent pick ups, what would you do with the first 2 Rams draft picks?
    Jim Thomas: 1.) Take care of Atogwe and Bartell.
    2.) Sign either a free agent OT or C.
    3.) Sign a free agent FB.
    4.) If you still have money, sign a free-agent MLB.
    Now let's assume all this takes place. (Which is a lot) If you sign the OT in free agency, then take Crabtree at No. 2 overall, and take the best C available at the start of Round 2. If you sign the C in free agency, then take OT at No. 2 overall _ then take the best player available in Round 2 at one of these positions: WR, SS.
    Will: Is it too much to ask for that the Rams return to respectability at least? I recognize that competing for the division might be two years away, at least but I hope to see us at least be respectable again. 7-9? 8-8 maybe? What do you think?
    Jim Thomas: It can happen quickly; the Rams proved that in '99. But you better have a very good offseason.
    Graham from England: Hi Jim

    1)Who, in your opinion, are the core players that are currently on the roster who the new HC and his staff will want to build the team around.

    2) Hypathetically, which of the veterans who are most likely to be traded and for what return.

    3) Tell me that Bartell and Otogwe will be re-signed.. PLEASE.
    Jim Thomas: Realizing that Spagnuolo doesn't have a ton of time since free agency starts in a month, but it's w-a-y too early to answer questions 1.) and 2.). Spagnuolo hasn't even looked at any tape of the Rams to my knowledge since he's been hired.
    Bartell and Atogwe, to the best of my knowledge, remain priorities for the team.
    PolderBear: Hi Jim,

    Any idea for when the rest of the coaching staff is in place? I realize there are lots of teams -- both at the pro and college levels -- that are looking for staff, but the picking of new staff seems to be dragging on.

    And what are your thoughts about not really getting "big name" position coaches?

    Thanks,

    PB
    Jim Thomas: I think the staff hires are moving on at a pretty good clip. Both coordinators are in place, and there have been five hires announced in the last 24 hours. There were some more guys being interviewed at Rams Park on Tuesday. By the end of the week, I wouldn't be surprised if most of the staff was in place.
    ibleedblue1968@: JT,

    Do you get a sense of what the Rams plan to target in Free Agency in terms of positions? All the talk about of the draft - but doesn't a teams efforts in FA impact their plans for drafting?

    Any insights on the Special Teams Coach?

    Thanks!
    Jim Thomas: Again, all thoughts on targeted position are on hold because of the new staff. I had a lot of insight on what Haslett is thinking. But there's a new sheriff in town, and my early impressions are that Spagnuolo will play his cards close to the vest. As for special teams, I don't really have a read at this time.
    Josh: If would could free up some space, would you be on board with signing gross and drafting crabtree?
    Jim Thomas: Where do I sign up?
    McSnipes: Do you know who the Rams have pegged as their top priority to re-sign between Atogwe and Bartell? Obviously it would be nice to re-sign both, but I would try to lock-up Bartell if I had to pick one. He's turning into a very good CB, where as Atogwe would be easier to replace. I still like Atogwe a lot, but Bartell could be turning into a star...
    Jim Thomas: If the Rams re-sign Bartell they might put the franchise tag on Atgowe _ that's what I'm hearing. It's a lot cheaper to franchise a safety than a corner.
    McSnipes: Hey Jim.

    How would you rate the 'big 4' OT's in this year's draft?

    Obviously this is subject to change with the combine and what not, but as we stand right now this is my list:

    1.) Eugene Monroe
    2.) Jason Smith
    3.) Andre Smith
    4.) Michael Oher

    Monroe has moved atop my list because I think he has the best combo of size, strength, and athleticism... and then Jason and Andre Smith are neck-and-neck for that #2 spot, as I think they would both be good picks as well. The only one I'm not too high on is Oher. For some reason I think he has bust potential.
    Jim Thomas: Right now, subject to change, I think I'd go 1.) Monroe; 2.) A. Smith; 3.) J. Smith; 4.) Oher
    Elmo: Hey Jimmy,

    If we really do trade Torry, then Crabtree would be the obvious pick right?
    Jim Thomas: I don't know. Devaney likes Maclin a lot!
    scott b.: Hi Jim,
    I feel the rams must get crabtree in the draft,. They can address the tackle postion by signing Jordan Gross. They must also get a solid back-up
    running back (ward) and get stout on defense up the middle. What are your thoughts?
    Jim Thomas: Uh, what happens to your plan if the Panthers re-sign Gross or franchise him?
    Mark: Any chance the Rams stop using free agency to find the next 4th string linebacker/special teamer and go for 1 or 2 big time players at positions of need?
    Jim Thomas: Let's see, the Rams spent $36 million on Jacob Bell last free agency, making him one of the highest-paid guards in the league. They also made Josh Brown the highest-paid kicker in league history.
    The year before they spent $30 million on WR Drew Bennett, making him one of the higher-paid receivers in the league.
    Sure, they deserved to be ripped for bad signings. But they are spending money. Are they spending it at a New York Jets pace from last year (and what did that get the Jets, but a seat in front of the TV for the playoffs). They usually have one or two big moves an offseason.
    Memphis Ram: It's my understanding that:

    1) The team doesn't have a great deal of salary cap space and this is without even re-signing (or tagging) Bartell and/or Atogwe yet.

    2) The team doesn't have $$$ to compete with other teams to pay the huge upfront signing bonuses needed to attract the big named free agents.

    3) Devaney has already stated that he had no interest in paying top $$$ to free agents 28 and older looking for their last big contract.

    4) And Devaney has already concluded that the team will use free agency just to fill out the middle of the roster and that it's best to build up NFL teams via the NFL draft.

    Am I missing something or am I mistaken??
    Jim Thomas: 1.) This is still to be decided. Remember, cap space can be created via restructuring and cutting players.
    2.) The Rams don't have as much cash to play signing bonuses up front, but you can always defer signing bonus money (pay some of it in installments over several years.)
    3.) Devaney, in general, likes the young veteran entering his second contract.
    4.) In general, he's not a big proponent of free agency. And views the draft as the main way to build a roster.
    Josh Otto: Good afternoon Jim!

    Question, any update on Bartell and Atogwe's negotiations, and status?


    Also, thoughts of drafting Andre Smith Round 1, and Shonn Greene Round 2?


    Thank you!
    Jim Thomas: I talked to Bartell's agent at the Senior Bowl, and he said he had heard nothing from the Rams except for a couple of phone calls from Billy Devaney stating the Rams interest and telling him the team was focusing on the coaching staff for now. To my knowledge the Rams still don't have a contract guy.
    Tim: What FB do you hope the Rams pick up draft or free agency?
    Jim Thomas: There are some good ones in free agency, including Terrelle Smith (underutilized in Arizona) and Leonard Weaver in Seattle (who's more than just a blocker.)
    signed s. j.: Jim,
    How bad is Leonard Littles hamstring.Will that be a lingering injury? This OJ took a while to get ready. Bruce had a bad hamstring that no one thought was going to get better in his early days.I'm thinking risk reward even though I'm a big fan of his pass rushing. Don't Drink & Drive!!
    Jim Thomas: Suppposedly, Little should be fine with some rest and rehab this offseason.
    rich: Good afternoon Jim,

    The Rams are going to have to make some decisions on a number of key veteran players, not the least of which are Orlando Pace and Torry Holt.

    Both have high cap numbers coupled with declining production.

    Do you have an idea of what direction the Rams are leaning in with these two former cornerstone players?
    Jim Thomas: I really don't. With a new coaching staff all bets are off. Spagnuolo has spent all of his energies, to my knowledge, working on his staff since he's been hired. If you're doing it right, it's not an easy thing to hire about 15 to 18 coaches and decide what to do with the 15 to 18 holdovers from the previous staff.
    seam-route: Jim,
    IF the Rams draft an OT in the first round, do you think they will trade Pace or Barron that same day for additional picks? If that's the case what do think the value is for one of those players in terms of picks. It seems like they would have to do something if they tie up $50+ million in another lineman, you can't have Pace or Barron riding pine and collecting millions. Thanks for your time.
    Jim Thomas: Actually Barron is pretty cheap for a starter. His cap number for '09 is only $2.47 million. Pace they might want to restructure.
    ramway: Jim,
    Hope you are keeping warm today! I really appreciate your time and insight on the Rams. You are the best source for Ram coverage.

    Which players at the Senior Bowl,did you see, that might be a good mid round pick?

    Also, I thought these players really stood out. What are your thoughts on them.

    LB Marcus Freeman, Ohio St. SLB?
    S Louis Delmas, W. Michigan
    OT Phil Loadholt, Oklahoma ...can he play LT?
    G Anthony Parker, Tennessee
    DT Peria Jerry, Mississippi
    DE Larry English, N. Illinois

    How would you rate the Centers?
    My Guess, 1.Mack, 2.Woods, 3.Unger,4. Caldwell, 5. Luigs
    Jim Thomas: You know, I didn't watch as much practice as I would've liked because I spent a lot of time tracking down coaches. But English did catch my eye. ANd I think Loadholt was just playing RT at the Senior Bowl practices.
    stonethrower: If Larry Fitzgerald shines in the Super Bowl, will that cause the Rams (and every other team) to place Micheal Crabtree at the top of their draft boards? (if he isn't there already).

    Fitzgerald and Crabtree have many similiarities, and Fitzgerald's effectiveness in catching passes in double coverage and getting up higher than any DB, will likely influence devaney's draft plans (as well as the coache's offensive system).
    Jim Thomas: Believe me, this is a copycat league. And I'm sure everyone is looking for the next Fitzgerald, whether he shines or not in the Super Bowl.
    Josh Kaestner: Jim,
    Looking at the Rams draft from last year, I found myself asking what role will Greco play on the Rams line? He was drafted in the 3rd Rd. as an OT. There is so much talk about the Rams taking a tackle with the 2nd overall pick this year. What about this guy? Could he "season" one more year and slide in when Barron leaves? Or is he best suited as an interior guy? Just curious, really...

    Thanks
    Jim Thomas: The previous regime thought Greco was much better suited for guard than tackle. And he was in line to compete with Jacob Bell and Incognito for a starting job next season.
    rockintheburbs: Jim..... Any word on Justin King's recovery?
    Jim Thomas: I haven't talked to Justin since the end of the regular season. he was progression nicely and thought he'd be on track for the start of the OTAs and minicamps.
    Obes10: What would you say the chances are that Holt is with the team this year?
    Jim Thomas: A lot depends, of course, on Spagnuolo and Shurmur (the new o-coordinator), and I don't know how they feel. I've heard rumors that the Rams are floating Holt's name, but it's nothing that I can substantiate. Holt obviously was less than happy with the previous regime, and he's obviously lost an ally in Henry Ellard. So right now, I'd say 40-60 that he's back.
    virginiatom: The Rams will be lucky to get another good year out of Leonard Little. He is old for a defensive end and has injury problems. What do you see as the plan for postion opposite Chris Long? Is defensive end a position of need in the draft or free agency or are the Rams comfortable with what they have?
    Jim Thomas: I think the Rams have much more pressing needs at other positions. And Little is relatively cheap in '09, the last year of his contract, at $2.5 million. But again, with a new head coach, some past assumptions on personnel and team needs may no longer be accurate.
    s.esco@hotmail.com: Jim: what do you make of the decision to stop using the draft service used in the past? Clearly one of the reasons is that if the Rams have been following the advice, it's not been successful. I take it that now all the drafting considerations are completely in house?
    Jim Thomas: If you're referring to the Giddings scouting service, that was a favorite of Shaw and Zygmunt. Zygmunt no longer works for the Rams and Shaw has a reduced role.
    john walker: Can you tell me the reason why Notre Dame football is on all the time?
    There has to be a reason why. Georgia was playing Alabama and it was not on as Notre Dame was playing someone like Kent State. Who has pictures on whom?
    I don't watch the game and have heard other people complaining. It would be one thing if they had a top ranked team, which they didn't.
    Jim Thomas: This is an odd place to ask that questions, but Notre Dame has a TV contract with NBC. The network does all the Notre Dame home games. It made a lot of sense 10 years ago, when the Irish were a national power, but they're just another team these days. But NBC is stuck with the contract, I presume.
    George: Jim, what do you think about this scenario? The Rams sign Butler (Giants) or Landry (Ravens) for SS, find a MLB in Free Agency, then try and sign the Center from the Ravens (cannot remember his name) for the O-Line, then draft Curry (LB) in the 1st Round. With OJ (FS), Landry/Butler at SS, a good LB core with WW finally moving to WLB, Curry at the Strong side and perhaps Pierce or some other FA LB playing MLB. That would be a great step forward for the Rams I believe. They could have a start of a good Defense and a big body Center to get them started on renovating the O-Line. I believe the Dolphins are already looking at the Ravens Center though, so interest in him seems to be high. What are your thoughts? Thanks.
    Jim Thomas: That's a lot of money. And remember, it won't be cheap to keep Bartell and Atogwe. And you still have to get some help at offensive tackle.
    F. Mulder: Jim: Do you have anymore information about the Pro Player Personnel potential hire as well as the latest on a new OL coach?

    Thanks
    Jim Thomas: The Rams have decided to retain Steve Loney as o-line coach. I blogged on that earlier on the Around the Horns blog. As for the pro personnel director post, I don't know if Mike Williams accepted the position or not. And since Billy Devaney has gone underground lately, I haven't been able to confirm the hiring.
    Vernon: I am really excited about the Rams with the direction they are now going, although Spags was not my first choice. I feel he will do a very good job, IMO. My question is, do you believe the Rams should draft a running back in the draft to put a little pressure on Steven Jackson ? I have never been a supporter of his because with his size, with or without a line he should be able to lead the league in rushing. He doesn't play with his heart in it, IMO.
    Jim Thomas: Adding a quality No. 2 running back was one of the top priorities of Jim Haslett going forward. We'll see if the same holds true for Spagnuolo. There's no doubt the Rams need a strong backup, just because of Jackson's injury history. As for Jackson, I couldn't disagree with you more when you say his heart isn't into it. Have you seen the guy run? He plays his rear end off when he's in there.
    rams26: Hello Jim -

    Has the team met with Spags? If so, what sort of reaction have they given? If not, when will they? I'm curious considering they sent a signed petition to Chip to keep Haslett. I have read just a few player comments about Spags.

    Thank you!

    As always..........GO RAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Jim Thomas: Team has not met with him. They are scattered all over the country by now, although some are still around town and come in to workout. The first team meeting may not be until the offseason conditioning program begins in March.
    md_french: What are your thoughts on how the Rams will address their middle linebacking needs?
    Jim Thomas: Again, it's to be determined if Maualuga is an everydown middle linebacker. After Ohio State's Laurinaitis, who projects as a late first-round pick, I don't think there are any sure things in the draft at MLB. You know Chris Draft is a solid MLB, and he could be a fallback starter at the position if all other options fall through. In free agency, Bart Scott and Karlos Dansby are intriguing possibilities.
    Josh: Hey Jim,

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on our #2 overall pick. For awhile, I was convinced that Andre Smith should be our guy, but apparently the scouts aren't so high on him. Now however, I'm thinking that if the Rams can sign a solid tackle (or two) in free agency, Michael Crabtree would be a phenomenal pick. I don't want to get star studded eyes here, but I believe that he's seriously a once in a decade type of pick, and he's going to end up as good or better than Larry Fitzgerald (who I also coveted). This is of course assuming that he's not a Randy Moss type pinhead. Of course, getting that Magulua guy from USC looks tempting as well, since we desperately need a stellar MLB.

    Your thoughts?
    Jim Thomas: If the Rams could sign a starting tackle via free agency, then to me, Crabtree becomes a viable option.
    lisa: The Rams need a lot of help, so what positions would be best upgraded through the draft and what positions would be best upgraded through free agent signings?

    What players do you expect to improve the most with all the coaching/management changes?
    Jim Thomas: Lisa let's wait until we get closer to Feb. 27 to see which projected free agents are still around at the start of the free agency/trading period.
    As for which players might improve the most, that's hard to say at this point, particularly with much of the staff still incomplete.
    Mitch from San Diego: Hi Jim,

    Thanks again for your time. I have a new appreciation for Chip Rosenbloom. I fully expected him to go with the logical short term strategy and keep Jim Haslett. Chip surprised me. Not only did he not go for the bandaid, he reeled in the best coaching prospect on the market I Steve Spagnuolo. The more I learn about Coach Spagnuolo, the more appreciative of Mr. Rosenbloom I am. I hope he does not sell the team.

    Thanks,

    Mitch from SD
    Jim Thomas: Chip has made a lot of tough decisions in his first year on the job. Firing Linehan four games in; promoting Devaney; moving Zygmunt out; reducing Shaw's role; hiring Spagnuolo. I don't think anyone can doubt that his heart is in the right place and that he sincerely wants to make this right, whether he sells the franchise or not.
    ILSider: Jim,

    Great job on the team and especially staying on top of the coaching search(es). There seems to be a lot of attention on the draft but I am more intrigued with free agency at this point as that should dictate the draft strategy. Do you foresee the Rams having the cap space to make an impact signing or two to bolster the O or D line or LB? Is the hope of landing someone who could instantly change the personality of the unit (e.g. an Albert Haynesworth or a Bart Scott type) a complete pipe dream? I like the new direction with Devaney and Spagnuolo but players win games and they need some significant FA help along with a solid draft to compete next season.
    Jim Thomas: Devaney has consistently been on record as saying that the way to build a team is through the draft and not free agency. But there's no doubt the Rams need to augment the draft with at least a couple of impact signings if they want to get competitive quickly. The best way to do that, I feel, is with younger veterans who are still on the rise, like a Jordan Gross or a Bart Scott. But in today's market that means overpaying. The Rams may have to restructure some contracts and/or let some players go, but I think they'll have the dough for a couple of major moves.
    HomeRunHomer: With Spagnuolo being hired as head coach and having control over the roster what are the chances that Sheriff Incognito remains on the team? I feel that he can be a service to the team if there is enough leadership to keep him in line and focused. Or do you think it will be too much for him to overcome his history of being a knucklehead with injuries?
    Jim Thomas: Good question, and don't know the answer. Despite his problems, Incognito easily was the most physical and most effective of the Rams o-linemen for most of the year. The best bet for the Rams might be simply tendering Incognito for one year as an RFA, and see how he pans out in '09 (and if he behaves himself) before committing to a multi-year deal.
    Aston Villian: Who are the best 3 or 4 offensive lineman available through free agency?
    Jim Thomas: LT Jordan Gross, Carolina; C Matt Birk, Minnesota; OT Mark Tauscher, Green Bay; C/G Jason Brown, Baltimore.
    Tom: Hi Jim,

    Any news on the rest of the coaching staff hires, will the Rams be retaining any current assistants. What happened with Bill Muir OL coach?

    Thanks, Tom
    Jim Thomas: Don't know what happened with Muir, but the Rams have retained Steve Loney as their offensive line coach. I thought he did a pretty good job considering he didn't have a ton to work with. Also, the club confirmed today that Charlie Baggett has been hired as WR coach (replacing Henry Ellard).
    So the offensive staff is close to set:
    _ Coordinator, Pat Shurmur
    _ QB coach, Dick Curl
    _ WR coach, Charlie Baggett
    _ O-line coach, Steve Loney
    _ Frank Leonard (either TE coach or offensive assistant)
    A running back coach still is needed.
    Thing are more unsettled on defense with only Ken Flajole as coordinator and Paul Ferraro (as LB coach, we think) confirmed as hired.
    To my knowledge, only Art Valero (RB coach) and Chuck Faucette (assistant strength and conditioning) are still under consideration among the holdover assistants.
    dennyo: With a quick count it can be reasonably determined the Rams have 25 players on the roster that might make the roster of any of the cuurent playoff teams. So we have a need to replace at least 15 players. So we probably are in a process of at least 2 years. If the Rams sign Jordan Gross, then what about the possibility of taking Rajai @ # 2?
    By the way I am a resident of Tampa and hope to run into you sometime this week Welcome!
    Jim Thomas: Sorry, I'm not at the Super Bowl this year. I have attended the last 18 in a row, but for budget reasons the P-D didn't send me this year.
    vanvaley1: Who are the 'bone crushers' in free agency and the draft? As I watch these playoff teams I'm impressed with the ferocious tackling of a chunk of the winning teams. Maybe it's time to forget finesse tacklers and get some 'bone crushers' even if they are a bit short on some other skills. I'd like to see the 'animal spirits' running wild on the dome turf rather than on the wall street turf.
    Jim Thomas: Well, I just mentioned B.J. Raji, the DT from Boston College. And USC LB Rey Maualuga fits in that mold. And in free agency, Arizona Cardinals SS Adrian Wilson definitely is of that ilk. (Just ask Marc Bulger.)
    ram4life: Jim, i really like this B.J. Raji kid. I heard the Rams gave him a long interview and a long look during the senior bowl. What's the chance that we bring this monster into the fold with our first round pick? Devaney did say that we needed a big, sloppy bodied, dt in the middle of our defense and 325 pound defensive tackles dont come our of college with first round grades every year.
    Jim Thomas: Well, they'd have to pull the trigger on him early. This guy looks like the top DT in the draft, and has top 10 pick written all over him. He is a beast, no doubt. And I wouldn't rule him out.
    Eric F: Jim,
    Can the Rams please change their jerseys? Let's see the Rams return to the orginal L.A/STL blue/yellow threads. There's only one team that should wear navy and gold (Notre Dame). This is not just a typical complaint because the team is bad. I just believe that generally speaking, a franchise's original uniforms are typically the best.....as the Packers, Bears, Steelers, Colts, Browns, and Raiders' jerseys have withstood the test of time, virtually unchanged.

    I'm speaking for a fairly large percentage of Rams fans who feel this way, so c'mon Jim, pull some strings for us, and get this settled. Ditch the navy and gold, bring back the blue and yellow!!!
    Jim Thomas: I know of no uniform change in the works. Obviously, you won't see much of the gold pants anymore since Chip Rosenbloom doesn't like them. And you will see the Rams wear their throwback unis (the '99 Super Bowl championship uniforms) next season. They have received permission from the league to do this and can wear them to up to three home games.
    Jumbo J: 1.) Has Spagnuolo talked to Carrikker or Long? If so, any ideas what he said? I'd like to see them get to the level of the Giants d-lineman.

    2.) Does Pisa have any trade value?
    Jim Thomas: 1.) I think Spagnuolo has been knee-deep in putting together his coaching staff. To my knowledge he hasn't talked to any players other than the few that were at his hiring press conference (Tye Hill, Todd Johnson, Antonio Pittman.

    2.) I think Pisa would have some trade value. He has led the team in tackles four seasons. But because of his size, or lack thereof, it's hard to say how much he would bring.
    Jumbo J: Do you think Herm Edwards would be willing to take a job as a position coach? And would the Rams be interested in hiring him to coach their secondary?
    Jim Thomas: Most of these out-of-work head coaches try for coordinators jobs first, then "settle" for position coach duties (often with the added title of assistant head coach). I don't think Edwards has any ties to the Rams coaching staff, other than newly named QB coach Dick Curl.
    Tim: You know if you really look at I think we might have our Dline set for next season. With spags in the line WILL get much better. We got Long who will be a solid run stuffer and can get about 11-13 sacks a year, Adeyanju who with great size will be a solid run suffer and I bet can hes the potential for 8 sacks along with Hall who is a decent pass rusher. Carriker will be healthy next year hopefully and should be back to his rookie form. And Ryan has shown great strides to be a solid DT. Im not sayin that they shouldnt look at Peppers or Haynesworth but it is an area to where I dont think we need to quickly address. Agree?
    Jim Thomas: I still think they need another wide-body at DT. He doesn't have to be a star. Heck, he doesn't even have to be a starter. But they need a run-stuffer who can be part of the d-line rotation.
    Tim: If I am Devanney this is my lis of top priorities whem free agent market hits.(assuming Bartell and Atogwe are resigned)

    1. Gross
    2. Dansby and/or Vilma
    3. Butler
    4. Ward or Sproles
    5. Vernon Carey

    If Gross even sniffs the market the Rams should jump on him so fast We would get a solid LT and it would allow us to snatch up Crabtree. Dansby would give us a big talented LB and Vilma is the true MLB we havnt had since Fletcher. Butler would give us a great set of safties. Ward or Sproles would give us a great RB tandom. And Carey would give us a great RUn blocking RT that would aloow us to shop Barron and Pace for extra picks
    Jim Thomas: These are all good thoughts. But let's see how many of these guys actually are still available in 4 1/2 weeks at the start of free agency.
    elderamfan: Are most of the Senior Bowl player evaluations based on the drills they're run through leading up to the game? After having a great '07 year, it seems like Witherspoon's productive play dropped off. Do you think Carriker's injuries and below-expectation play caused 'Spoon's decline? Before he thought he was a talent evaluator, I thought Zygmunt's handling of negotiations and the salary cap was a key to the Rams' successes. Don't they have anybody in that position now?
    Jim Thomas: I think almost all the Senior Bowl evaluations are based on the practices, particularly the full-pad workouts. Very few coaches or scouts stay for the actual game. They watch that on tape.
    Spoon, remember was injured. His shoulder bothered him much of the year. So I think it had more do to with that than anything else. Also Spoon wasn't used as much as an edge rusher, either in '08.
    To the best of my knowledge the Rams still are looking for a cap and contract guy. I don't think this Bruce Warrick guy _ the yet to be confirmed new direct of football administration _ does contracts.
    bob_n_weave: Spags, here is the plan. What do you think ?

    1st round: OT = Monroe

    2nd round: OL = Alex Mack or Max Unger, can play Center, Guard or Right Tackle.

    3rd round: Linebacker
    4th round: 1 trick pony pass rushing DE for 3rd downs
    5th round: Big sloppy D.T. Run stuffer for 1st,2nd downs.
    6th round: Fullback
    7th round: Special Teams Stud

    Free Agents: Safety, Back up RB, Quarterback.
    Thanks Trent and Cory time to retire.

    Call me
    Jim Thomas: Sounds good to me. That means you've got to sign a backup RB in free agency, and possibly a fullback as well. And you better re-sign Bartell and Atogwe.
    bigramfan1966: Jim,

    I have long been advocating a tackle at #2 but now I am beginning to wonder if there is one worthy of the #2 pick. I think a batter situation is that we trade down and get another #2 and more and draft a playmaker ala maclin or possibly curry. If we stay at #2 then I am actually leaning toward Crabtree as I think he is a true difference maker. Cab you imagine Crabtree and Avery together? Wow speed to burn, now if we could only get a quarterback to throw the long ball.....
    Jim Thomas: If the Rams can sign a tackle in free agency, why not grab Crabtree?
    BE13.DROOPY: Hey jim how do you like the coaching staff spags has put together so far do you think they are well qualified for the jobs. Especially the coordinators do you think theyre any good. Also who would you pick for the rams in the draft
    Jim Thomas: I think Pat Shurmur is a bright mind and an up-and-comer as offensive coordinator. I don't know a lot about Ken Flajole as defensive coordinator, although I covered the University of Missouri in 1989-90 when he was defensive backs coach for Bob Stull. I can recall interviewing Flajole a couple of times on the Tiger beat. But he certainly did a good job with the Panthers linebackers at Carolina.
    I'm not too hung up on the fact that most of these guys have some ties to Spagnuolo. To a large degree, that's what coaches always do.
    Dan in Honolulu: Coach Spagnuolo is a revered DC. No argument there. But is he HC savvy enough to know that the Offensive lIne is the foundation of the team and that the Rams O-line stinks right now? The Rams need depth at every line position, and because this years draft crop of LT's and interior three is thin, the Rams should trade down and get several big bodies? Agree?
    Jim Thomas: You're assuming that there's someone willing to trade up. A player that somebody just has to have. And if you're the Rams I don't think you want to trade down too far.
    COGzilla: On the rams chat forum the question of our lb personnel is ofetn discussed.
    i know you like pisa, but the guy has more missed tackles and tackles ten yards downfield than any other backer we have. spoon is our will. we know this to be true. what do you do with pisa, and please dont tell me he has a chance at sam.they do want to get bigger right? he is an awfully expensive backup will...is he gone???
    Jim Thomas: Very good question. And I don't know the answer. I don't think Pisa moves well enough to be used at strong safety.
    Johnny: Hi Jim,

    What was your reasoning for picking Eugene Monroe over the other tackles, that include Jason Smith, Andre Smith and Michael Oher? My top two picks for OT are Monroe and Oher though.
    I am just wondering why if the Rams picked Rey Maualuga at the ILB position and them moving Witherspoon to the OLB, people are not happy with picking him that high. He has a better base than Aaron Curry, meaning his thighs and girth is more suited for the MLB than Curry. I understand that if you trade down, you risk of losing him to another team that might trade up to get him. And he is the only player that I see that will be like drafting a player that takes two positions.
    What about moving Carriker back to his natural postion at DE. I believe he has been playing out of postion at DT and may flourish with this new coaching staff. Also, it will help the DE position with Little retiring at the end of the year as he has stated.
    Is there any indications on them bringing back Trent Green? Or are they considering trying to get Jeff Garcia(a player that I hope they get) or David Carr as others have posted?
    Jim Thomas: By all indications, Monroe is more of a finisher than Oher, and he's a better pass blocker than Andre Smith. And he doesn't have any of the background issues of Oher or Smith. So in that sense he's a safer pick.
    As for Maualuga, the question is can he cover well enough to be an every down linebacker? If he's a liability on second-and-long or third-and-long, you simply can't spend the kind of money on him as a No. 2 overall pick.
    Carriker wouldn't be much of a pass rusher as a defensive end, so it doesn't make much sense unless you're switching to a 3-4, which doesn't appear to be Spagnuolo's M.O. Also, if you moved Carriker outside, then you'd have to make DT a huge priority in the draft.
    Don't know about Trent Green yet. But he did work with the new QB coach (Dick Curl) in Kansas City in 2006.
    Ram101: Jim why is everyone talking about the OT issue, that was not the problem with either line, it was the middle of both lines, no attitude, no power, no ability to move anyone any were, we need a Big mean Center and another Big mean Guard, then GO for a Big stout MLB and pick up a proven NT, move Carriker back to DE and presto! your thoughts
    Jim Thomas: The Rams gave a lot of help to both tackles in pass-blocking situations over the course of the year. Pace will be entering his 13th NFL season and turns 34 in November. Barron is what he is. He has some durability and plays through injuries. But he still gets pushed back by the bull rush, commits too many penalties, and seems to lack a true passion for the game. He's entering the last year of his contract with the team. And there's no proven third tackle on the roster. So I would say tackle is a huge issue for this team.

    El Bittre: I'm growing more and more concerned with these coaching hires, almost every one has an "unofficial let's fire him" thread by fans of his old team, and I'm not seeing a lot to them on paper except they are old friends of Spags. I'm also concerned that Spags listed "faith" as his first "pillar" is playing into these hirings... I assume this means faith in the football team, not his religious side... Or are all these coaches religious zealots forming some scientology St. Louis chapter!?! It would certainly explain why not one face of color is among these choices, which all joking aside is a legit concern.
    Jim Thomas: Charlie Baggett, the new wide receivers coach, is an African-American. And let's see what happens with D-line, secondary, and RB coach.
    I do believe that Spags meant faith in the football team and the overall philosophy, although he did make mention of his religious faith during his opening press conference.
    Time to go. Thanks for the all the questions. Talk to you next week.


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    Re: Thomas Chat --Jan 27th

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Thomas
    Jim Thomas: Good question, and don't know the answer. Despite his problems, Incognito easily was the most physical and most effective of the Rams o-linemen for most of the year. The best bet for the Rams might be simply tendering Incognito for one year as an RFA, and see how he pans out in '09 (and if he behaves himself) before committing to a multi-year deal.
    No, no, no, Jim. I'm sorry, but the answer the fans were looking for was "He's a liability and the worst lineman on the team."

    You've got to stop watching the games, Jim. It's making you lose touch with the fanbase's opinion.
    "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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