St. Louis Rams Free Agency: Risk/Reward Potential in Free-Agent Signings

Justin HartlingCorrespondent IApril 15, 2012

St. Louis Rams Free Agency: Risk/Reward Potential in Free-Agent Signings

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    The St. Louis Rams did not make a lot of huge moves in free agency this year, but there are players with the potential to make a big impact on a team that is in desperate need.

    However, for every potential positive impact these free agents could have for the Rams, there is also a possibility that they will hurt the team.

    We will examine every free agent that the Rams signed this offseason and evaluate all of their risk/reward potential for the team.

Players with Little Risk/Reward

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    G/C Robert Turner

    Turner has been a versatile swingman for the Jets for several years. In his 41 career games, Turner started two. He has potential to be a solid backup guard for the Rams, but has little hope of starting for the Rams unless there is an injury. 

    G/T Quinn Ojinnaka

    More offensive line depth for the Rams. Ojinnaka has had a previous stint with the Rams, but only for two months before being cut. Ojinnaka is solid at best and is a low risk/reward for the Rams if he actually manages to stick with the team this time around.

    TE Matt Mulligan

    His six career receptions will have minimal impact on the Rams. He will behind both Lance Kendricks and Micheal Hoomanawanui.

LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar

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    Dunbar comes into a position of great need for the Rams. The Rams have not had a quality OLB in quite some time.

    Dunbar could not be any worse than any other player that has started there for the Rams in the last few seasons. Though he spent his entire career as a backup for the Saints, this will likely be the year he starts.

    Both of last year's starters for the Rams, Chris Chamberlain and Brady Poppinga, were released this offseason. With what should be increased play by the defensive line and James Laurinaitis manned at MLB, Dunbar could become a quality starter for the Rams.

    At the worst, Dunbar will bring experience and depth to the weak Rams linebacking unit and beef up their special teams play.

    Possible Risk: Minimum

    Possible Reward: Average

DE William Hayes

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    Hayes comes over from the Tennessee Titans to rejoin the man who drafted him, new Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

    Hayes had his best season under Fisher in 2009 when, after replacing Jevon Kearse, he had 51 tackles and four sacks.

    There is little chance for Hayes to start on the Rams. There is a slight possibility that Robert Quinn will not live up to his first-round draft selection and Hayes could start a few games. But most likely, he will be a rotational player with some solid plays over the season.

    With only a one-year contact, there is little to be concerned about the Hayes signing. He could continue to grow like he did before under Jeff Fisher's watchful eye and turn in a solid six- to eight-sack season, or he could just sit behind Quinn and Chris Long, providing a decent rotational player.

    Possible Risk: Low

    Possible Reward: Average


DL Kendall Langford

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    This a a bizarre pickup.

    Langford spent his entire NFL career playing DE in the Dolphins' 3-4 defense. He played DE in college at the University of Virginia. This is the first time Langford will play in a 4-3 defense. 

    It is expected that he will play DT for the Rams, who have little depth at the position and have both DE's set in place with Quinn, Long and Hayes. The 26-year-old Langford started 12 games for the Dolphins last year and racked up 20 tackles and no sacks.

    Langford received a four-year contract worth $24 million with $12 million guaranteed—in there lies the risk. He has all the potential to be a great player in the NFL, but he has never played DT in a 4-3.

    Possible Risk: High

    Possible Reward: High

DT Trevor Laws

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    The 26-year-old former second-round pick is more of a fit for the Rams' woeful rush defense than Langford.

    At 6'1" and around 300 lbs, he is a run stuffer that the Rams need. Never in one season did he total more than 20 tackles though, and he has never been the starter that the Eagles originally envisioned when they drafted him.

    Laws is still young and has the potential to be a solid starter for the Rams, but at worst, he will be a rotational defensive lineman that will be gone after his one seasons with the teams.

    Possible Risk: Low

    Possible Reward: Average

WR Steve Smith

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    This is the signing that could prove to be the best of the entire offseason.

    Steve Smith is only three seasons removed from a year in which he caught 107 passes for 1220 yards and 7 touchdowns. However, he severely injured his knee and has yet to really put it all back together. He spent last season with the Eagles and made only 11 receptions over nine games.

    Smith could be great if his knee is completely healed—that is one big of though. Smith and Danny Amendola could create havoc underneath for opposing team defenses.

    This one-year contract involves almost no risk and nothing but reward.

    Possible Risk: Minimal

    Possible Reward: Pro Bowl Player

C Scott Wells

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    Hopefully this pick goes better then Jason Brown.

    Wells has spent his entire career up to this point with the Green Bay Packers. He has started 100 games in his eight-year career so far. Though he did make the Pro Bowl last year, there was always speculation and rumblings that the Packers were looking for someone better.

    That being said, he is a solid starting center who will not hurt you, but because he is small, he can get overwhelmed at times.

    Possible Risk: Average

    Possible Return: Average

CB Cortland Finnegan

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    Another former Titan who had their best years under Jeff Fisher.

    In Fisher's last year in Tennessee, Finnegan had 100 tackles and two interceptions. The two seasons before, he racked up five interceptions each year. 

    He is a tough cover corner who will harass a team's No. 1 receiver and cause mistakes through frustration. During his tenure with the Titans, he had a lot of on- and off-the-field incidents, including starting a brawl between the Titans and the Texans in 2010.

    However, Finnegan is joining a defense with little help for him. When the Titans had constant pressure from their defensive line during Fisher's tenure, Finnegan played great. However, last year, without a strong defensive presence on the Titans, Finnegan had 75 tackles and two interceptions—a production drop of 25% over one season.

    Finnegan might bust, but with Jeff Fisher working with him again and a defensive line that has great potential, I see him continuing to put up Pro Bowl numbers.

    Possible Risk: Average

    Possible Reward: Pro Bowl Player

What Do You Think?

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    The Rams did not take a lot of risks with their free agents this seasons. There are a couple players, Langford and Finnegan, that could bust and could make the team look bad.

    At the same time, those risks are balanced out with players that are low risk/high reward (Smith and Dunbar).

    What do you think?

    Did the Rams whiff on some free agents or hit home runs?

    Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments below.

    Either way, thanks for reading.

    Cheers.