St. Louis Rams Free Agency: Looking at the Offseason Plan so Far
Free agency opened approximately one week ago and most of the excitement has already peaked.
All of the household names are off the board: Peyton Manning (Denver), Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay), Carl Nicks (Tampa Bay), Brandon Lloyd (New England), Mario Williams (Buffalo), Brandon Carr (Dallas).
During the initial feeding frenzy, the St. Louis Rams were able to avoid tossing around large sums of money like an unstable drunk, but they still managed to close the deal on a trio of capable players.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan was the Rams' blockbuster signing of the offseason. Finnegan, a former all-pro, was signed to a five-year deal worth $50 million, and will immediately provide St. Louis with the trash-talking swagger they've been lacking for years.
Center Scott Wells was the team's second major signing. Wells is a Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl champion, and was the keystone of Green Bay's offensive line. He'll be a significant upgrade over former center Jason Brown, who was released nearly a week ago.
The final signing of significance was defensive tackle Kendall Langford. Langford was a quiet and underrated signing, but he'll presumably be a major boost on the inside.
But now that the Rams have cleared the first wave of free agency, what can we conclude regarding the logic behind the most recent signings? And what strategy will the team adhere to for the remainder of this offseason?
What Has Been the Strategy So Far?
At this point, especially with the signings of Finnegan and Wells, the Rams have been looking for role-model players capable of setting the tempo for the rest of the team.
Finnegan played his first five seasons under head coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. He knows how Fisher operates and will be an icon for the other players to follow.
Finnegan respects Fisher, and that respect only grew once Fisher and Co. put $50 million in his pocket. As a result, Fisher has an ally with unwavering loyalty. Finnegan buys into the philosophies of Fisher, and will lead by example.
And although Wells did not play under Fisher, the same can be said about him.
The Rams offensive line was abused in 2011 after surrendering an NFL-high 55 sacks. They were absolutely manhandled and the whole unit looked like a lost cause.
However, Wells will be able to step in and demonstrate to the younger players, such as Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, what it takes to play at a championship level.
So with the Rams' top free-agency signings, they were not merely looking for productive players, but players who stand for everything Fisher stands for—tough football.
What is the Strategy for the Remainder of Free Agency?
The Rams had 21 unrestricted free agents entering this offseason—not a single one was retained.
The current regime certainly has a desire to cut loose the dead weight, which is more than understandable given the team's 2-14 record.
As such, it would be pointless to send the elderly and used-up players to the guillotine only to replace them with players who are equally old and ineffective.
The team is building for the future, so they will stay young; there will still be multiple low-level free agents signed in the near future to fill out the roster.
When it comes to filling voids via low-end signings, teams typically have two choices: an old veteran with barely anything left in the tank, or a raw youngster with much to learn.
Expect the Rams to stick with the latter.
The team is not trying to compete this season, but rather 2013 and beyond. As a result, they'll want players who have a remote chance of remaining with the team years from now.
What Still Needs to Be Addressed?
The top free agents have found new homes, so there won't be any big splashes from this point on.
However, there's still the 2012 NFL draft this April, as well as trade possibilities.
Here's where the Rams are still lacking:
Wide Receiver: Danny Amendola is a solid threat out of the slot, but the Brandon Gibson is currently the team's top receiver on the outside, which is a scary thought (in a bad way). Expect the Rams to address this position with a high draft pick.
Defensive Tackle: Kendall Langford was a solid pickup in free agency, but the Rams still need another starting-caliber tackle. Don't be surprised if they use a second-round pick to fill the void.
Outside Linebacker: The Rams do not have a single outside linebacker on the roster capable of starting. They'll likely address this concern with a low-level signing in free agency, and a mid-round draft pick.
Left Guard: If the Rams somehow end up drafting David DeCastro in the first round, then their offensive line will instantly become a team strength. However, this void will more than likely be filled with a reasonably priced free agent (unless right tackle Jason Smith is willing to change positions).
Backup Running Back: Cadillac Williams and Jerious Norwood are both free agents. The team desperately needs a No. 2 back behind Steven Jackson.
Punter: Donnie Jones is a free agent. The Rams can fill this need either in free agency or with a late-round pick.
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