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  • Rams Assessing Needs

    Rams Assessing Needs
    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Considering the nature of a NFL offseason, it seems more and more that the next four or five months are in some ways busier than the regular season.

    “We go into overdrive now,” general manager Billy Devaney said. “Honestly, the draft feels like it’s right around the corner. It’s a real busy time for all the personnel people.”

    But before any planning can be done in terms of offseason roster changes or additions or for April’s NFL Draft, the Rams must first take a look in house, make a determination on what they already have in place and set their offseason goals accordingly.

    The NFL has always been a league of change and roster turn over every year with regularity and in quantity.

    For the better part of the past year, the Rams personnel staff has been out scouting college players and formulating lists of potential free agent additions. None of that stuff really comes into focus until now.

    This week, head coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff have sat down and evaluated all of the moving parts of the team including the players and themselves.

    Once that process is complete, the staff can meet with the personnel people and they can come up with a better idea of what the Rams needs are, who will be staying and who will be going. It’s inevitable that some players will be gone.

    “A lot of guys contracts are up,” defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said. “Those guys are like my big brothers. They have helped me be the guy I am today showing me the ins and outs of the league and help me be a veteran. Just looking around and knowing you are not going to see some of these faces again, it’s kind of hard, it’s real hard.”

    By now, players like Ryan and other veterans are used to that fact of NFL life. And they’ve been around long enough to know that some players will indeed be back.

    Before getting the opportunity to sit down and watch the film, Spagnuolo said earlier this week that he believed there are some pieces in place for the foundation of the team for 2010 but also acknowledged that change will be in the air, as it always is.

    “I believe we’re got the makings of a nucleus, a foundation to go forward and where we want to go in this thing,” Spagnuolo said. “I do realize that in the NFL, every year there’s change. Our team is no different so we expect that to happen. Right now we’re kind of in the evaluation mode. Certainly everybody, players, coaches, everybody within the organization that works hard needs a little bit of rest. You got to re-energize and then move on, so that’s what we’ll do.”

    Because of uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining agreement, there is also some question as to which players will hit unrestricted free agency and which will not.

    As it stands, the Rams have 41 players under contract for next season with 14 more under their control as restricted or exclusive rights free agents.

    Among players scheduled for unrestricted free agency regardless of the CBA, the Rams have tight end Randy McMichael, quarterback Kyle Boller, defensive ends James Hall and Leonard Little, long snapper Chris Massey and linebacker Paris Lenon.

    It’s possible that Little could opt for retirement after 12 seasons in the league though he has said he would take some time to sit back and think about it before making a decision upon the end of the season.

    Hall, a valuable player, who is capable of helping all across the defensive line and a consummate professional, says he would like to stick around to help finish what is being built in St. Louis.

    “It’s a great locker room,” Hall said. “It’s a pleasure playing with these guys. There are good people in this organization, people on this coaching staff. Each NFL locker room is different. I have been in some bad ones and I have been in some good ones. You try to stay in the good ones.”

    Ryan is among the list of restricted free agents, players the Rams can control simply by giving them tender offers. Those offers will vary based on the skill of the player and those players can receive offer sheets from other teams that require compensation going to the original team should that team choose not to match the offer.

    Six players are scheduled for restricted free agency with Ryan the biggest name among that group. Like Hall, Ryan is also eager to stick around St. Louis and continue building on what has been put in place.

    “I like this city, I like talking to you guys every week,” Ryan said. “I like being around here. This franchise has a rich history and I take pride in being a part of that. This team is rich in history, guys like Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Orlando Pace; you can go on and on. If I could be a part of that, it would be an honor.”

    Confusion sets in on a different group of players that is scheduled for unrestricted free agency but might not actually see that this year.

    Under the rules of the current CBA, if a season is uncapped, players will have had to have six years of experience before they can become unrestricted free agents. That means players like safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, end Victor Adeyanju and tackle Alex Barron would go from being unrestricted to restricted because the requirement would have gone up a year on them.

    The Rams have seven players on the roster that would be affected by the capped/uncapped season. As of right now, there is no new collective bargaining agreement in place and the 2010 season would be uncapped if it started today.

    If nothing else, the Rams are better prepared to have those meetings than they were at this time a year ago. Last year, the Rams didn’t even have a coaching staff at this point.

    Now, the coaching staff has been in place for a year, the scouts know what to look for and the meetings to evaluate the current personnel have a lot more first-hand opinions rather than simply what can be seen on tape.

    “I will listen to the coaches and they will say this guy came on, he’s better than you think, with another season it’s not quite as bad,” Devaney said. “We have to go through that whole thing but it’s not nearly as daunting as this time last year.”

Related Topics


  • Nick
    Rams prepare to evaluate free-agent market
    by Nick
    Rams prepare to evaluate free-agent market
    BY JIM THOMAS | Posted: Friday, January 7, 2011 11:45 am

    Less than 72 hours after the team's season-ending loss in Seattle, Rams coaches began evaluating free agents throughout the NFL.

    "We gave them the free-agent lists — the UFAs — and they started that process (Wednesday) morning," general manager Billy Devaney said.

    Never mind that the current labor impasse between team owners and the NFL Players Association means there is no salary cap, and no guarantee that an agreement will be reached before the March 4 start of free agency period.

    "I think everybody's hopeful that March 4 will come and we'll have a new league year and start (as usual)," said Kevin Demoff, the Rams' executive vice president of football operations. "But that's to be determined. You have to have a number of different scenarios mapped out, and adjust depending on how the offseason unfolds."

    In the meantime, the evaluation process remains the same at Rams Park. The scouting staff evaluates potential free agents, the coaching staff gets involved in the process, and you go from there.

    For now, the Rams are treating all players with four years' experience and expired contracts as potential unrestricted free agents, or UFAs. This past offseason, with no salary cap, only players with six years' experience and expired contracts were eligible for unrestricted free agency.

    But for now, the starting point for the Rams in terms of the free-agent evaluation process is that the old system is in place.

    "At some point things may be different, but as of right now we're still planning for the 2011 season and what's best for the St. Louis Rams," Demoff said.

    A big part of that process is evaluating the Rams' own free agents. The Rams have 12 players scheduled for unrestricted free agency and eight scheduled for restricted free agency.

    Of the 12 players on the unrestricted list, five were starters in 2010: wide receiver Mark Clayton, tight end Daniel Fells, defensive tackle Gary Gibson, offensive guard Adam Goldberg, and wide receiver Laurent Robinson. Also, cornerback Kevin Dockery filled the nickel-back role for much of the season.

    Although Devaney isn't tipping his hand, if there's a top priority regarding the 12 UFAs, it's probably Clayton, whose season ended early in Game 5 in Detroit with a patellar tendon injury. After being acquired in a Sept. 6 trade with Baltimore, Clayton had a huge impact in the Rams' passing game, catching 23 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns.

    "We think the world of the guy," Devaney said. "We would love for him to be here."

    At tight end, Fells finished third on the team in reception yards (391) and fourth in catches (41), while catching two touchdown passes....
    -01-07-2011, 10:05 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Turn Toward Minicamp, Draft
    by RamWraith
    Friday, March 27, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    With April and the NFL Draft closing fast, the Rams are turning their attention away from free agency and the events of March and toward the annual selection process.

    But before getting in to all of that, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and his coaching staff is about to get its first look at the players already on the roster on a real, actual football field.

    That has been a long time coming for Spagnuolo, who after he was hired on Jan. 17. The Rams are less than a week away from the first of three minicamps with Spagnuolo at the helm.

    The first opportunity comes Thursday when the team opens a three day minicamp that will involve all of the players currently on the roster.

    Although it won’t be the best way to determine what he has, it will give Spagnuolo and staff the opportunity to see players up close in a semi-competitive environment.

    “I still think and I truly believe this – to me I really kind of hold any kind of judgment until you can actually get on the field and work with them,” Spagnuolo said at last month’s scouting combine. “That’s the true tell. I will take it even further, even though we are about to go through the mini camps and the OTAs, you can learn a certain amount of things in those practices but let’s remember the game is played with pads on and it’s a violent game so you can’t really make those decisions until then. This is a long process and we just take it step by step and draw our conclusions at the end of it.”

    The first step in building the team – or as Spagnuolo likes to call it “laying the foundation” began about two weeks ago when the team kicked off its offseason conditioning program.

    Attendance at those sessions has been almost perfect with the lone exceptions of running back Steven Jackson (who was excused the first few days for the birth of his child) and receiver Derek Stanley (who is still recovering from a serious knee injury). Jackson returned last week and participated in every workouts since.

    The Rams have been hard at work in the weight room and conditioning for most of the past two weeks before wrapping it up for a little bit yesterday. The team is off until they are required to return to town for the minicamp next Wednesday.

    With a new staff in place, players got a crash course in the new way of doing things under Spagnuolo, including a more free-weight, core body emphasis in the weight room courtesy of new strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson.

    “The first couple of days you could see a change in his approach,” cornerback Ron Bartell said. “Overall, I think guys are just really excited. You can’t get overly excited yet because the season’s so far away, but guys really have something to look forward to this year. Guys have different reasons and there are certain things...
    -03-28-2009, 04:15 AM
  • Bralidore(RAMMODE)
    Rams Learn Lessons for Future
    by Bralidore(RAMMODE)
    "For 16 weeks this year, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has had a laser-like focus on one thing and one thing only: the next game.
    That tunnel vision trickled down from Spagnuolo to the rest of the team and any discussion of something beyond the next contest was immediately dismissed upon mention.
    When Spagnuolo woke up Monday morning, though, he was left with the sobering realization that there won’t be another game to plan for until the start of the 2010 season, months and months away.
    “I wish we were getting ready to play another game,” Spagnuolo said. “I just want to play another game. When you lose, you crave and you hunger for the next opportunity to win. I talked about this a lot during the year. There’s nothing like being in a locker room of an NFL team after winning just because of everything that goes into it during the week and what the guys do together, just the craving for that feeling. Unfortunately, we will have to wait however many months that is to get that feeling again.”
    So it is that Spagnuolo and the rest of the Rams have already turned the page on the 2009 season and begun their preparations for the next step. Those steps include preparing for the start of the free agent period, scouting and evaluating college prospects and then making the first selection in the 2010 NFL Draft.
    But before any of that can happen, the Rams will review what happened in 2009 and glean as many lessons as possible from what happened to improve their performance on the field in 2010.
    To each man in the Rams’ locker room, those lessons were different but the overlying theme remains the same.
    “Through all of the adversity we went through, unless I am missing something, the team, there wasn’t anybody jumping ship, pointing fingers, going off the deep end and that is a credit to them,” Spagnuolo said. “To me, that is the biggest thing.”
    Indeed, through the difficulties that inherently come with a 1-15 season, it would have been easy for any player or coach to go off the reservation and explode be it in the media, on the field or anywhere else.
    Beyond that, though, even when the chips were down and the Rams were long-since removed from contention for the postseason, the team continued to fight and battle as though it were in the thick of the race for the playoffs.
    While simply having a good attitude and remaining competitive when it’s tough won’t win you any games it is certainly a big part of the fabric of successful teams.
    “I learned something about the guys on this team,” defensive end Chris Long said. “We don’t have any quitters. You see it every week on television. You watch teams and things aren’t going well and people quit sometimes. I don’t feel like we quit. We have to get the football ironed out. That’s execution and stuff like that but I don’t fault anybody for their heart or their...
    -01-04-2010, 07:44 PM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Busy Despite Delay In Free Agency
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams busy despite delay in free agency

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Last year at this time — or five days into the free agency period — the Rams had signed quarterback A.J. Feeley and defensive tackle Fred Robbins. Safety Brodney Pool visited but wasn't offered a contract, and the Rams were trying to keep tight end Daniel Fells from signing with New England or Denver.

    Two years ago at this time, center Jason Brown had been signed, safety James Butler had visited and was in the process of signing, and the Rams were trying to prevent cornerback Ron Bartell from leaving for New Orleans,

    As for this year, the Rams and 31 other NFL teams are stuck in neutral. The start of the free agency and trading period is on hold because of the stalemate in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

    That made for a more relaxing weekend at Rams Park. There were no late-hour talks with agents, no wee-hour agreements, no opening salvo of player visits that characterize the feeding frenzy start of free agency.

    But it's not as if the "gone fishin' " sign has been posted in Earth City.

    General manager Billy Devaney was in over the weekend grinding tape in preparation for the draft. "There's always a ton of tape work to do," he said. "There's guys that weren't invited to the (NFL scouting) combine that are still really good prospects that we've got to do our due diligence on."

    And this week, with the pro days on college campuses in full swing, Devaney and the scouting department have fanned out over the country. Devaney was on the road Tuesday. Starting today, members of Steve Spagnuolo's coaching staff will start doing the same.

    The team's free agency game plan — or actually, game plans — were finalized a few weeks ago.

    "Of course, it's a little unknown right now who qualifies for unrestricted free agency and who doesn't," Spagnuolo said. "So you've got to really have two plans."

    One plan assumes that unrestricted free agents are those with four years experience in the league (which has been the norm during the free agency era).

    The other plan includes only players with six years experience in the league (which was the case last offseason during an uncapped year).

    "Once we got past the free-agent evaluations, which was about three or four weeks ago, then it's strictly football and scheme in the morning, and college (draft) evaluations in the afternoon," Spagnuolo said, speaking of his coaching staff.

    The morning football/scheme work began at the start of the offseason with the coaching staff going through tape of all 16 games from start to finish — taking notes and looking for plays that might be used for teaching tapes this coming season.

    "So if the...
    -03-09-2011, 04:29 PM
  • MauiRam
    A good long chat with Kevin Demoff ..
    by MauiRam
    12:30 PM - 1:30 PM CTChat with Kevin
    Rams Executive VP of Football Operations and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff joined us to answer your questions in a live chat on Friday, Nov. 13 at 1:30 pm CST.

    Good afternoon Rams fans, it is great to be with you this Friday. Thank you for your continued loyalty and support for the Rams, it fuels our building each and every day. With that, let's answer some questions!

    Ruben, Highland, Ca 1:33 PM CT
    Kevin, Thanks for taking my question. From an operational standpoint, what was the most challenging aspect of your position coming in, evaluation of front office staff, cap related issues, changing attitude/environment, ect? What has been the most rewarding?

    Ruben, I think the most challenging aspect is the same one Coach Spagnuolo faced, which is changing the culture at the Russell Training Center. There was little to no communication between the football staff and the business staff, and no vision for where this organization was headed. The most important task at hand is to provide a vision which is to re-engage our fan base and make St. Louis excited about Rams football. How we do that is improving all of the items you mentioned -- the play on the field, the game day experience, the attitude of our staff and making us the most fan-friendly and community-oriented team in St. Louis.

    Tom, Fenton 1:36 PM CT
    Kevin - First, while the wins have not been piling up, I appreciate the efforts put forth by the team this year. The wins will come, just need to keep churning the roster and find the right pieces. Thanks as well for the new game day experience at the Ed. While I appreiate the conference calls with you and Coach Spagnuolo and chats like these, are there any plans for reaching out to the season ticket holder base and having any type of "appreciation day" after the season is over. I know the Cardinals and Blues do the same for their STH and was curious if there were any plans for the Rams too. I have been a STH since the Rams moved to St. Louis and I bleieve the previous regime did a poorjob of engaging with the loyal fans who renewseason tickets each season. Thanks for your time and the chat today.

    Tom, We have done a poor job in the past providing our season ticket holders with value and recognition, and if there is one thing we do on the business side, it will be to have a better connection with our fans and especially our season ticket holders. For the first time, we are going to host Fan Appreciation Day on January 3rd when we play the *****, and that will be the beginning of our "fan off-season", which will focus on giving greater access and recognition to our season ticket holders. We need your support and we know that our season ticket holders and all other ticket buyers are the lifeblood of this organization.

    Dean, Wilmington, NC 1:40 PM CT
    From everything...
    -11-14-2009, 12:24 PM