St. Louis Rams: Major Surprises on the Final 53-Man Roster

David HeebCorrespondent ISeptember 3, 2012

Greg Salas will rejoin Josh McDaniels in New England.
Greg Salas will rejoin Josh McDaniels in New England.Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The St. Louis Rams have undergone a radical makeover heading into 2012. Jeff Fisher and Les Snead aren't wasting any time in getting rid of some of this dead weight at Rams' Park.

Jason Smith, the former No. 2 overall pick in the draft? Gone, so ahead and write "bust" in ink beside his name. Illinois Mike Hoomanawanui, who had talent but couldn't stay healthy? Released, right when I figured out how to spell his name without looking it up.

Jerome Murphy (released), Kellen Clemens (released), Quinn Ojinnaka (released), Greg Salas (traded) and Ovie Mughelli (released)—your services are no longer required.

Altogether, the 2012 Rams' roster is made up of 32 new players, or 60.4 percent of the total roster. If this were a home makeover show, Jeff Fisher and Les Snead opted for the wrecking ball.

Count me as one Rams' fan who isn't complaining.

Some people might not like the trade of Salas to the Patriots. I was a fan of Salas, no doubt about it. Then again, he was fifth or sixth on the depth chart. He wasn't going to get on the field and help the 2012 Rams. He was never going to get ahead of Brian Quick or Chris Givens, two rookies drafted last April. So why not flip Salas for a pick that might help the Rams down the road?

I thought it was curious that the Rams let Murphy go for nothing, especially considering that so many NFL teams need help at corner. You know the Rams were trying to get a pick for Murphy, so obviously, there wasn't a market for a trade.

Murphy did land in New Orleans after he was claimed off of waivers.

So if you're scoring at home, Salas landed with Josh McDaniels, and Murphy landed with Spags. That's the way this works in the NFL. Players often end up with a former coach that sees potential in them. McDaniels pushed for Salas to get drafted in St. Louis. Spags was the guy that drafted Murphy.

It makes sense for both of those players to land where they did.

When the Rams cut Quinn Ojinnaka, I said to myself, "smart move." Ojinnaka was a retread offensive lineman. At best, he was a stop-gap player at left guard. Why not just turn the page and give the job to Robert Turner, who played well in the preseason, or massive rookie Rok Watkins?

I felt the same way about the trade of Jason Smith to the Jets.

For the record, I predicted that the Rams would cut Smith loose when I projected the Rams' entire 53-man roster. It didn't make sense to keep Smith around as a backup. Some of the comments I got suggested that Fisher was playing head games with Smith, trying to light a fire under him. That was ridiculous. There's no way the Rams would risk Sam Bradford's health by playing head games at the right tackle position.

Smith was going to win a starting job, or he was going to get shipped out of town—period.

To fill the open roster spots, the Rams brought in Terrance Gannaway, Kellen Heard, Ty Nsekhe and Shelley Smith. Gannaway is a powerful running back that could be a hybrid fullback in this offense (hello, Britt Miller). Heard is a massive defensive tackle (6'6", 339 pounds) that fills a major need.

Nsekhe and Shelley are reserve offensive lineman with potential. Nsekhe in particular (6'8", 325 pounds) is a physically imposing player. Both players make the Rams younger, more athletic and deeper on the offensive line.

In addition, the Rams have four first-round picks over the next two years. Smith was either going to play up to his enormous potential, or the Rams were going to start planning to draft a tackle. By trading for Wayne Hunter, a backup with nine years experience, and then adding two talented young backups in Shelley and Nsekhe, the Rams have basically signaled that they're going to have to rebuild the offensive line.

Billy Devaney strikes again. Man that guy had the worst drafts ever!

Illinois Mike was a good player, he just couldn't stay healthy. Like I said in my roster prediction, why go through the motions with Illinois Mike as the third or fourth tight end? Why keep carrying dead weight, just because a guy shows some potential?

At a certain point potential becomes a bad word if you don't live up to it.

Here is what should really excite you if you are a Rams' fan—no matter how bad the Rams were a year ago, this literally isn't even the same team.

With 32 new faces, that's obvious. Factor in guys like Danny Amendola, Rodger Saffold and Bradley Fletcher who missed huge chunks of time last year due to injuries, and the roster turnover at Rams' Park is nothing short of incredible.

On defense, the Rams return only three of the same starters—Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Quintin Mickell. On offense, the Rams return only four starters—Sam Bradford, Steven Jackson, Harvey Dahl and Lance Kendricks.

The Rams will probably be the youngest team in the NFL by a country mile. With so many draft picks coming over the next two years, why not just go ahead and figure out who the keepers are on this roster?

Did you really want to give Jason Smith another 16-game tryout?

I didn't think so.

As always, thanks for reading.