Monday, February 13, 2006

David Walters, Las Vegas: A lot of Commentators say pick any spot on defense and the Rams need help in that area. I don't believe this shot gun approach to Rams defense is accurate. Do you see strengths in the Rams current defensive personnel, and can you pin point positions that seem to need the most help?

NW:Interesting question. It might sound unfair to the defense to say that there needs to be across the board changes on the unit. Obviously, there are some players that are impact guys that could reall excel if put in the proper system. With Jim Haslett taking over as defensive coordinator, I believe that some of those players will emerge and show their talent in a more aggressive, attacking unit such as the one Haslett should employ. Guys that I would point to as strengths are Leonard Little, Ryan Pickett, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Jerametrius Butler. But there are plenty of others with potential for a breakout such as Anthony Hargrove, Ron Bartell, Jerome Carter, Oshiomogho Atogwe and Jimmy Kennedy. I think when you read or hear someone say that you can pick any spot on defense and the Rams need help, what they mean is the Rams needs playmakers on that side of the ball. In other words, getting a guy who can make an immediate impact regardless of position because there weren't many who did that a year ago. The positions that need the most attention in my mind are three secondary spots (one corner and bother safeties) as well as two of the linebacker spots.

Bill Stoll, Tulare, Calif.: Could you please explain what this "No Cap 2007 Season" is all about?

NW: Good question, Bill. Here's the deal. The NFL's collective bargaining agreement expires in 2008. Thus, the 2007 season is the last year before it expires. It is expected that the negotiations to come to a new agreement will be more difficult than other bargaining sessions from the past. The main point of contention will be revenue sharing. What that boils down to is the players' perceived belief that owners are taking extra revenue from things such as luxury boxes and pocketing all of the profits as opposed to dumping some of that money back to them. Obviously, that money can't just be given to the players association to be divvied up, but it can go toward a salary cap increase (thus making more money available for players to make in free agency). To answer your question, though, the current collective bargaining agreement calls for the salary cap part of the agreement to come to an end at the conclusion of the 2006 season. However, the 2007 season is still under the umbrella of the current collective bargaining agreement. So, unless an agreement is reached on a new collective bargaining agreement before 2007, it's a possibility there would be an "uncapped season." More than likely, though, there would be a labor stall before that would happen. The fear of having free agents run rampant with no limit on how much they can make is the old once you get into something you never go back. If players get a taste of what baseball players get, for example, it might be hard to ever get them to go back to having a salary cap. Hope that answers your question.

Jeffrey Jones, St. Louis: I think its good that we are looking at the corner and linebacker positions. What about safety? What are the chances of re-signing Mike Furrey,or picking up free agents such as Chris Hope, or even Terrence Holt?

NW: I am pretty confident that Furrey will be back next season. He proved that he has potential to be a safety in this league. Will he ever be a star? Probably not, but he could be a strong backup and continue to contribute well on special teams. It's hard to get a grasp on whether the Rams will make a run at a safety considering the draft picks invested last year and the unknown desires of the new coaching staff. Atogwe and Carter should get opportunities to make moves on starting spots, but the coaching staff is reviewing and breaking down the tape still. Obviously, Hope would be a nice addition and there are some good players in the draft that could contribute right away. The key is, if you let one guy go, you have to find someone at least as good or better. It's hard with two young safeties whom you know very little about.

Chris Helland, Albuquerque, N.M.: I've just read an e-mail saying that Adam Archuleta may not return. What is your view on this? Will he come back as a ram?

NW: With any free agent, there is always the possibility that they won't return for a variety of reasons. Archuleta's status is as up in the air as any other unrestricted free agent. He expressed a desire to return during the season, but those feelings might have changed depending on his opinion of the new coaching staff and the coaching staff's opinion of him. He might be out of the Rams' price range and should draw some interest from teams hoping to get the old Adam Archuleta. He still has plenty of good football in him and I believe he is one of those guys who could thrive in an attacking defense that Haslett will likely run. As far as I know, there has been limited contact, but there is plenty of time between now and the start of free agency for him to get a new deal should the sides agree on that.

Bryan H., Attleboro, Mass.: Do you think Jerome Carter is ready at safety if Archuleta was to leave or would the Rams have to use free agency/draft to get help?

NW: Based on the limited look we got at Carter last year, I do not think he is ready to be a full time starter. A lot of the talk about him before the year advertised him as a big hitter in the Roy Williams mold. He got plenty of opportunities to show that, but I didn't see it either live or on film. Does that mean he won't be ready if needed this season? No, it doesn't. He could come back to camp and everything could click and he could be more than ready to start. I believe it's important to add a veteran safety to bring experience and perhaps become the starter. If the Rams can get an impact safety in free agency and the price is right (if they don't keep Archuleta), they should do it. It could be too soon to start both Atogwe and Carter at safety.

Dan Mercer, Collinsville, Ill.: I am more concerned with the offensive line. Since there are many quality guys available this year, do you think that the Rams will look that direction in the 3rd or 4th round? That area will need to be addressed seriously in the coming years.

NW: You're absolutely right, Dan, there have been plenty of questions focusing on the defense and draft, but the way this offensive line shapes up in the future will shed an important light on the future of this football team. To me, the tackles are set for a long time. Orlando Pace is still one of the best in the business and Alex Barron has Pro Bowl potential. Adam Timmerman and Andy McCollum aren't getting any younger, though both still provide some meaningful intangibles and might have a year or two left in them. Claude Terrell showed that he could have a bright future, but he needs a year or two of hard work in the weight room. He has plenty of potential and is already an impact run blocker. He needs to get quicker to be sound in pass protection, though. The great unknown is Richie Incognito, who projected as a center with the old coaching staff, but might be more suited to guard under the new regime. Incognito is full of potential and attitude. If he can get healthy and stay in line mentally, he could be a starter sooner than later. After that group, there is a mix of young talent that could develop. That group includes Larry Turner, Ben Noll, Matt Morgan and Blaine Saipaia.

Joseph Rodriguez, Jacksonville, Fla.: I wanted to know and may be you can touch this subject whenever you get a chance. But with the lost of Jack Snow, Ron Jessie and now Dick Bass who are not in the Hall of Fame. Will the league consider them to be worthy to be in the Hall of Fame any time soon? We've had some great players for the Los Angeles/St.Louis Rams that are not in the Hall of Fame and I think they should for their great contribution to the Rams whatever year they played.

NW: Joe, for as much as anyone can appreciate the history and joy that former Rams greats gave them, but the Hall of Fame is sacred territory. Anytime we lose people we care about, we want to find ways to honor them. There are plenty of people out there that have had wonderful careers that aren't in the Hall of Fame. In this case, I'm afraid that none of these players will be considered for the Hall anytime soon.

Jason Taylor, O'Fallon, Mo.: I was wondering who won the Carroll Rosenbloom award this year (who was the rams rookie of the year)?

NW: The winner of that award was right tackle Alex Barron.