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Kurt Warner
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

St. Louis Rams fans are hopeful, as the 2012 NFL free agency period approaches, that the Rams can land several starting caliber players. 

The Rams have several holes to fill and it is vitally important that St. Louis target and attain the right players in new head coach Jeff Fisher's first off season here. 

While an organization's foundation must be the NFL draft, the proper utilization of free agency can add those final layers.

When done properly, NFL free agency provides every team the opportunity to yield impact starters and quality-depth performers.  NFL free agency can be paramount to a team's success (or lack thereof). 

That has certainly been the case with those players making this list of the top St. Louis Rams free agent signings since 1995, as each of the following free agent additions have helped the St. Louis Rams field a better and more successful team. 

How Were the Rankings Prioritized?

Rankings
Rankings

In evaluating the St. Louis Rams free agent acquisitions since 1995, certain criteria were utilized and emphasized more so than others.  In order of weighted value, these criteria were evaluated:

1.  The level of individual performance and length of time a given player produced at a high level while in St. Louis.

2.  The level of team success that corresponded while a given player performed in St. Louis.

3.  The performance derived compared to the contract signed. 

(For example, both Jeff Wilkins and Josh Brown were considered for this list due to strong overall Ram-resumes and similar career numbers.  However, one player worked here under a more team-friendly contract, making him more valuable with all other things being nearly equal.) 

With those criteria established, let us jump into the countdown. 

7. Will Witherspoon

Will Witherspoon
Will Witherspoon
Harry How/Getty Images

Will Witherspoon arrived in St. Louis as a free agent addition in 2006 after four seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

Although his overall impact and time here was probably just a notch below expectations, he played some very solid football here from 2006 through part of 2009 before being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Witherspoon was sent to the Eagles in exchange for wide receiver Brandon Gibson and a fifth round draft pick.  St. Louis was desperate for receivers at the time of the trade. 

In just over three seasons here (50 starts), Witherspoon produced 279 tackles and 11 sacks.

In 2006, he made 102 tackles and sacked opposing quarterbacks three times.  The following season, Witherspoon collected 92 tackles and a very impressive seven sacks. 

When looking at the play at the outside linebacker position since the departure of Witherspoon, the Rams would probably like a do-over on the Witherspoon to Eagles trade of 2009.

 

Will Witherspoon Statistical and Value Analysis of St. Louis Seasons:

Seasons: 3 full (2006-2008) plus a partial season (2009)

Starting Seasons: 3 full plus partial season

Tackles: 279

Sacks: 11

Pro Bowls: 0

Team Won-Loss: 13-41

Playoff Appearances: 0

Super Bowl Appearances: 0

Super Bowl Wins: 0

Contract Details: 6 years/33 million (traded in year 4)

6. Mike Jones

Mike Jones with "The Tackle"
Mike Jones with "The Tackle"
Tom Hauck/Getty Images

If for nothing else, St. Louis Rams Super Bowl-hero Mike Jones deserves to be on this list for, "the tackle".  That historical play sealed the Rams win in Super Bowl XXXIV versus the Tennessee Titans and former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher. 

Although clearly one of the most important plays in Rams' history, Jones contributed much more to the franchise during his tenure here from 1997-2000.

After signing with the Rams after a four year run with the Raiders, Jones started 62 of a possible 64 regular season games while in St. Louis, averaging 63 solo tackles per season.  

The former Missouri Tiger was a very solid starting outside linebacker for St. Louis over four seasons and he makes this list due to his consistency as well as the appreciation due for making one of the greatest, most meaningful tackles in NFL history.  

 

Mike Jones Statistical and Value Analysis of St. Louis Seasons:

Seasons: 4

Starting Seasons: 4

Tackles: 252

Sacks: 7

Pro Bowls: 0

Team Won-Loss: 32-32

Playoff Appearances: 2

Super Bowl Appearances- 1

Super Bowl Wins: 1

Contract Details: Unknown

5. Jeff Wilkins

Jeff Wilkins
Jeff Wilkins
Getty Images/Getty Images

Jeff Wilkins earned the nickname, "Money," for his clutch kicking with the St. Louis Rams after arriving as a free agent from the San Francisco 49ers in 1997.  

Wilkins earned the selection over current Rams kicker Josh Brown due to his better clutch kicking, comparative team performance and his better overall value related to compared salaries. 

Brown signed a five year, 14.2 million dollar contract with the Rams, including a four million dollar signing bonus.  Brown's contract was the largest ever given to a kicker.  

As for Wilkins, the 2003 All-Pro selection made 81 percent of his field goals during an 11 year stint with St. Louis. Wilkins is second all-time with 371 consecutive converted extra points without a miss.  

In 2000, Wilkins was perfect on the year.  Astonishingly, he was successful on every field goal and extra point try that season.  

2003 was another exceptional year for Wilkins, as he went 39 of 42 on the season, converting on 93 percent of his field goals.  

For his career, Wilkins made over 72 percent of field goal tries from beyond 50 yards. 

 

Jeff Wilkins Statistical and Value Analysis of St. Louis Seasons:

Seasons: 11

Field Goal Percentage: 81

Beyond 50 Yards: 72% (26 of 36)

40-49 Yards: 66% (73 of 111)

30-39 Yards: 88% (77 of 88)

Pro Bowls-:1

All Pro: 1

Team Won-Loss: 90-86

Contracts: 

1997- 4 year/2.1 million

2001- 5 year/6.5 million

4. Ricky Proehl

Ricky Proehl
Ricky Proehl

The St. Louis Rams signed Ricky Proehl in 1998 after the wide receiver hauled in 58 balls for the Chicago Bears in 1997.

While Mike Jones was known for, "the tackle," Proehl was most know for "the catch" (shown above), which sent the Rams to the franchise's first Super Bowl in 2000.  

The steady, productive veteran was a solid slot receiver for St. Louis from 1998 through 2002.  He was particularly effective as a third down target.

Proehl averaged 35 receptions during his time in the Gateway City and over 3 touchdowns per year.

Those numbers may look rather modest and, admittedly, they are. 

However, there were only so many receptions to go around when sharing the field with Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Marshall Faulk, and Az Zahir Hakim.  

 

Ricky Proehl Statistical and Value Analysis of St. Louis Seasons:

St. Louis Seasons: 5

Starting Seasons: 0 

Receptions: 176

Touchdowns: 16

Yards Per Catch: 12.5

Pro Bowls: 0

Playoffs: 4

Super Bowl Appearances: 2

Super Bowl Wins: 1 

Contract Details: 

Contract 1: Under $500,000 per year/4 years

Contract 2: 1 year/$750,000

3. Andy McCollum

Andy McCollum with former Rams Head Coach Dick Vermeil
Andy McCollum with former Rams Head Coach Dick Vermeil
Elsa/Getty Images

Andy McCollum held down the center spot and played with consistency, starting six straight seasons for the Rams from 2000 through 2005, never missing a start.   

McCollum arrived the same year (1999) as fellow, "donut brother," Adam Timmerman after playing four years for the New Orleans Saints.  He was a steadying force for the Rams, snapping the ball year after year to Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger. 

McCollum was very solid as both a run and pass protector.  

 

Andy McCollum Statistical and Value Analysis of St. Louis Seasons:

Seasons: 9

Starting Seasons: 6

Pro Bowls: 0

Playoff Appearances: 5

Super Bowl Appearances: 2

Super Bowl Wins: 1

Team Won-Loss: 81-62

Contract: average pay in St. Louis was well under 1 million per season.  

2. Adam Timmerman

Adam Timmerman
Adam Timmerman
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Adam Timmerman joined the Rams in 1999 after playing four seasons for the Green Bay Packers on the frozen tundra. 

Timmerman made the Pro Bowl in 1999 and 2001 while started 125 of 128 games for the Rams over eight seasons. 

Timmerman played a stout right guard.  He was remarkably consistent playing alongside the previously recognized, "donut brother," Andy McCollum. 

Timmerman was tough and helped set the tone for the entire offensive line, along with All Pro tackle Orlando Pace, for several seasons in St. Louis.  

 

Adam Timmerman Statistical and Value Analysis of St. Louis Seasons:

Seasons: 8

Starting Seasons: 8

Pro Bowls: 2

Playoffs: 5

Super Bowl Appearances: 2

Super Bowl Wins: 1

Won-Loss Record: 78-50

Contract: 

First contract- 5 years/18 million

Second contract- 5 years/14 million (released after 3 seasons)

1. Kurt Warner

Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner
Elsa/Getty Images

What is their to be said about Kurt Warner that has not already been said?

Warner is not only the greatest undrafted (or drafted) free agent signing in St. Louis Rams history, but is also one of the greatest free agent signings of all time.

Warner signed with the Rams in 1998 and they shipped him to the Amsterdam Admirals of the now defunct NFL Europe.  

Warner finally landed on an NFL roster with the Rams in 1999 at the age of 28.

He was set to be the backup to free agent addition Trent Green, but Green went down to a season ending injury during preseason action.  We all know what happened in the cinderella-story from that point on.  

Warner led the Rams to two Super Bowl appearances while orchestrating what many still insist was the best offense the NFL has even seen–the greatest show on turf.  

Injuries and other issues cut his time in St. Louis to a relatively short five years.

In fact, he was only the primary starter for three full seasons (1999-2001).  However, during his tenure with the Rams, St. Louis made the playoffs four times and won 70 percent of their games.

 

Kurt Warner Statistical and Value Analysis while in St. Louis:

Seasons: 5

Seasons as Full Time Starter: 3

Passing Yards: 14,447

Touchdowns: 102

Pro Bowls: 3

First Team All Pro: 2

MVP: 2

Super Bowl MVP: 1

Playoffs: 4 (3 as starter) 

Super Bowl Appearances: 2

Super Bowl Wins: 1

Won-Loss as Starter: 35-15 (.700 winning percentage)

Contract: who cares...  led St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowl in three seasons as starter.  

Honorable Mentions

Quintin Mikell
Quintin Mikell
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

We could create a lengthy honorable mention list but will hold it to five for the road:

 

Quintin Mikell: The free agent safety from Philadelphia played very well in his first season with the Rams in 2011 with a sack, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and 75 tackles.  

Fred Robbins: Robbins signed with St. Louis after playing with the New York Giants. Robbins was terrific in 2010 notching six sacks while contributing 26 tackles at defensive tackle. In 2011, his play fell off a bit as he made 22 tackles while posting just one sack. 

Josh Brown: Although his salary is high and his consistency has diminished, he has hit on 82 percent of kicks in four seasons here. 2011 was his worst statistical season as he connected on just 75 percent of field goal attempts.

Danny Amendola: The free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad came over in 2009 and caught 43 balls.  In 2010, Amendola had an impressive 85 catches.  

Ray Agnew: the stout defensive tackle came to St. Louis from the New York Giants in 1998.  For three seasons, Agnew averaged 31 tackles and four sacks in those three campaigns.

 

Shane Gray covers the St. Louis Rams year round. To check out the rest of his work, go here.  You are also encouraged to follow him on Twitter. 

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