Busy time for Rams GM Snead ..
BY JIM THOMAS
Friday, March 30
PALM BEACH, FLA. • It has been an absolute sprint for Rams general manager Les Snead since he was hired in mid-February — and he's still a long way from the finish line.
"I have caught my breath, but it's been intervals and then you start again," Snead said. "I do think the frenzy is coming to an end, and now it will be just a steady, fast pace leading up to the draft. Because the draft is a certain day — you know when it's going to be. It's like studying for that mid-term."
In the case of the NFL draft, it's more like a final exam — Snead's first as a general manager. Already, Snead has helped engineer a blockbuster trade, getting three first-rounders and a second-round pick from Washington for the Rams' No. 2 overall pick.
In free agency, the Rams already have signed six free agents, bringing in at least 17 free agents to Rams Park for visits. Snead wasn't kidding when he said he'd take an aggressive approach to personnel, and owner Stan Kroenke likes what he sees.
"I think Les fits our model," Kroenke said. "Just like Jeff (Fisher) fit our model. Once we had a strong head coach in place, then we started looking for a certain type of individual (at general manager). We felt really good about Les, and so far Les has done a great job. He brings a lot of energy, a lot of intelligence, and considerable background to the job."
It's going to take a lot more energy to get the Rams' roster set for the start of the 2012 season, because there are a lot of holes to fill. Another one was created Thursday when free-agent punter Donnie Jones agreed to a one-year deal with Houston. Jones arrived in Houston on Thursday night and told the Post-Dispatch he would take a physical and sign his contract today.
So add punter to the "things-to-do" list. The Rams need help at wide receiver; need one, maybe two starting offensive linemen; a starting defensive tackle; a backup quarterback ... And did we mention there are only three linebackers currently under contract?
"We'll play a lot of dime defense," Snead joked about the dearth of linebackers. "I don't think it is a time to panic, because there is a timeline. And the timeline is between now and final cuts for us."
That timeline includes the rest of free agency, the draft, rookie free agents and then the final roster cutdowns around the league at the end of the preseason. The Rams are second in line for waiver claims at the start of the season.
"This will be a year we should take advantage of that," Snead said. "We're on the front end of building this thing, so there is an element of wanting youth so they can grow with us. But we're not going to be able to do everything we want to do Year One in terms of filling holes. So there's going to be some, call 'em insurance policies. You know, maybe older, veteran players that can come in and help us fill a role for a year or two."
The Rams signed three sure starters in free agency in cornerback Cortland Finnegan, center Scott Wells, and defensive tackle Kendall Langford. Another free agent, wide receiver Steve Smith, could be a starter if his knee holds up. Also, Quinn Ojinnaka will be a tackle/guard swingman and Matthew Mulligan will compete for the blocking tight end job.
Free agency is well into the secondary phase, with virtually all the big names and quality starters off the market. But the Rams still are looking.
"It's not like you're going to get anything big, but there's going to be some players that maybe can help you in a role," Snead said. "We're still monitoring that.
"There's still some good, solid football players. We all know how that is on a football team. You're going to have some marquee players, go-to players, pillars — they're going to be your bread-and-butter for making plays. But you also have those solid role players that fit a scheme. They buy in. If they're a great fit, they'll be productive for you. They'll support your pillars."
But for the most part, once the NFL owners meetings conclude at the end of March the focus turns to the draft, and that's where the Rams are at — honing in on that "final exam" April 26-28.
The flurry of pro days is winding down, with a few left in early April. The private workouts continue. And now comes the "top 30" visits by draft prospects to team facilities, plus the "local day" for draft prospects from the St. Louis area.
Under Snead's predecessor, Billy Devaney, the Rams brought basically all of the top 30 prospects in at once. Under Snead, the approach will be different.
"Lots of ways to skin that cat," Snead said. "We will stagger them this year." And yes, the phone lines remain open at Rams Park when it comes to trading down or up from the No. 6 overall pick.
"You've got to be open to both," Snead said.
Re: Busy time for Rams GM Snead ..
When I read "pillars" I almost got a heart attack.
Phew. Close call.