Tuesday, April 22, 2008

By Nick Wagoner

Senior Writer

Unofficially, the Rams are now officially on the clock.

With breaking news Tuesday that the Miami Dolphins had agreed to a contract withMichigan offensive tackle Jake Long that makes him the No. 1 pick in Saturday’s NFL Draft, the focus of the football world immediately shifted to St. Louis .

Long had been a serious part of the discussions surrounding the Rams’ choice, but with him off the board the Rams are moving forward.

“I think it’s pretty obvious he was a guy that was on our board but we are pretty excited to know what we are doing,” Linehan said. “The way we are looking at it is there are some pretty exciting players that we are now down to. He was one of them and now the list is a little shorter than it was but we have some pretty good choices left.”

The Rams hold the second pick in the draft and with Long off the board, the team is focusing its attention on three players.

Linehan found himself searching for a three-sided coin Tuesday afternoon as the team has narrowed its focus to LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, Virginia defensive end Chris Long and Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston.

“I don’t know if there is one,” Linehan said. “I’m trying to find one. You know the ones. I’ve seen them before, the old pyramid looking coins.”

Linehan wouldn’t tip his hand which direction the Rams are leaning but said with Long off the board the process is a little easier.

The internal discussion that lasts for the rest of the week leading into the draft will center on finding the balance between the player with the most potential to make a difference and positional needs.

“You rate your board, but positional need is pretty important with the needs we have,” Linehan said. “We have some pretty critical needs. What’s great is to be able to take that player and it just so happens to fill a big need for you as well. That’s the great thing about the guys we have on the board up there that we will be picking early. They are both. I guess that’s why we are so excited about who is on our board now.”

Linehan said he believes the Rams could in theory begin negotiations with any of the three players this week once the league makes Jake Long’s contract official.

But don’t expect those negotiations to happen. Linehan said the Rams aren’t likely to make a decision until Friday or so on the player they choose and they likely won’t strike a pre-draft deal like Miami did.

“I don’t even know that we would negotiate with anybody,” Linehan said. “I think we will probably take it to the end and pick a player.”

Team president John Shaw is due to arrive in town Thursday and he will be involved in the discussions before a final decision is made.

The extra time between now and then will be spent fielding phone calls and trying to come up with a consensus on the player they take should they stay at three.

However, Linehan would prefer to stay in the second slot, a place he believes the Rams can find a true franchise cornerstone.

“The bottom line is, again going back to the pick we have, it would be hard to replace what we would be able to draft moving back even if you fulfill some needs on your team which would be nice and be a big help to us,” Linehan said. “But I would take a great player, a difference making player over fulfilling a lot of needs. I would resist trading. This is from my standpoint. There are some scenarios that would be pretty good, I think. It takes two teams to make a trade, and it would have to be pretty good.”

The Rams will listen to offers, though. It has been widely speculated that Atlanta loves Dorsey and could be prepared to make an offer to move up one spot for him if it appears the Rams will take him.

The Falcons hold three second round picks so there is plenty of ammunition for a trade should the Rams want to barter.

When asked about Atlanta ’s love for Dorsey, Linehan responded with a simple “Get in line.”

Linehan and staff spent Tuesday afternoon stacking the board vertically and filling out the rounds based on where the team has the players graded in terms of a potential round.

Assuming the Rams stay at No. 2, Linehan has no doubt that the Rams will be getting a guy that can make a difference right away.

“I think a difference maker is a guy that comes in, starts, plays great for you and helps you win,” Linehan said. “I don’t know that anyone is a guarantee. But the odds are that the better player, the better the chance is that is going to happen. My personal evaluation is that we have some of those kind of guys at our pick.”

GOING CAMPING: According to team sources, the Rams are expected to announce where they will set up shop for this year’s training camp on Wednesday.

It is believed that the finalists for the destination are Concordia (Wis.) University, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a return engagement at Western Illinois University in Macomb.

While none of those places would likely provide an opportunity to scrimmage with another team, the Rams are apparently making plans to get in some work with another squad at some point.

League sources are hinting that the Rams will scrimmage with the Tennessee Titans in Tennessee in the week leading up to the preseason opener. The Titans would follow suit and come to wherever the Rams hold camp in 2009.