The Definitive Blueprint to the St. Louis Rams' Perfect Offseason
The blueprint for the perfect St. Louis Rams 2013 offseason is the simplest one the Rams have seen in a long time.
For the first time since 2008, the Rams will have a "normal" offseason—one without the worry of coaching changes, lockouts or ownership changes.
Jeff Fisher and his staff are here to stay, provided none of the staff are lured away by offers for higher-profile positions.
The players will get to go through a full offseason program with the same systems that were in place the year before and without the distracting drama of changes at the top.
In the following pages we will take a definitive look at all of the things the Rams need to do between now and September of 2013 to compete for an NFC West title next year.
Re-Sign Robert Turner
First things first; The Rams will need to re-sign their own players.
The Rams had $96,350,878 million in total salary expenses in 2012. Aside from Steven Jackson's $8.9 million, 2013 won't see any big contracts come off of their books and those that do come off will likely go back on at a larger rate.
Even so—with the 2013 salary cap projected to be $121 million— the Rams should have plenty of maneuverability under the cap to re-sign all of the key components of the 2012 team and bring in all the help they need through free agency.
Robert Turner is near the top of the list of in-house people.
Despite being ranked one place behind Quinn Ojinnaka, whom the Rams released in October, by Pro Football Focus, Turner's durability, versatility and solid play make him an incredibly valuable asset to the Rams' offensive line rotation, even if it is in a reserve role.
He will likely cost more than the $700,000 he made in 2012, but he will be worth it.
Re-Sign Barry Richardson
Barry Richardson will need to be replaced as the Rams' starting right tackle before the 2013 season.
But, if he is happy with returning in a reserve role—or with a chance to compete for the starting job—and his new contract reflects that reality, he would add valuable depth to the O-line for not a lot of jack.
Re-Sign Bradley Fletcher
If they can get him for less than his current $660,574-per-year contract, Fletcher should be re-signed.
It's not that the Rams don't have the cap space; they do, but it's just not wise to overpay anyone.
Fletcher may feel he could start on some teams and want to test the free-agent market. If he gets interest as a starter, the Rams will be forced to step away—they are not going to pay their third or fourth cornerback starter-type money, but it would be nice to have him back in the fold as he has proven he can play.
Previously Mentioned Re-Signings
My thoughts on William Hayes, Brandon Gibson, Danny Amendola and Steven Jackson can all be found here.
In short, because of his familiarity with the offense and Sam Bradford, Gibson needs to be signed if the price is right.
Hayes must be re-signed if he is comfortable coming off of the bench.
Amendola needs to be re-signed as long as his contract demands are reasonable for a player who spends too much time on the injured list.
Jackson wants to play and the Rams want him back. The possible sticking points include the number of years on his contract and his desire to play for a championship-caliber team.
Levitre would be an upgrade and would also provide great O-line depth by pushing Robert Turner to the bench.
Jennings is the legitimate No. 1 wide receiver the Rams have been looking for. He is healthy and, considering his history, he can reasonably be expected to stay that way.
My latest mock draft is less than a month old and, having just revisited it, I don't see the need for many changes.
Lance Kendricks has looked better in recent weeks so drafting a replacement for the tight end may not be as high of a priority as it was in early December.
Still, it would not be shocking to see the Rams take Stanford's Zach Ertz in the second round. He has a Gronk-like body and solid skills and, being a Stanford guy, you know he won't have any trouble picking up an NFL offense.
Also, it's looking increasingly possible that all of the top three OT prospects could be off of the board by the time the Rams' first pick rolls around. If that is the case, look for them to take the last of the tackles projected to go in the first round, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, with the second of their two first-round picks.
Player Development: Brian Quick
Even if the Rams bring in Greg Jennings or another established wide receiver, they will still need Brian Quick to develop into the offensive force that his physical attributes indicate he can be.
Receivers coach Ray Sherman is famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) for his laid-back attitude in dealing with his wide receivers.
Of course, coaching temperamental divas like Terrell Owens and Dez Bryant may necessitate a pliable disposition.
Now is not the time for being laid-back in any way. Sherman and Quick need to spend as much time together as the law allows this offseason in order to get Quick ready for a starter's role in 2013.
If Quick shows the same kind of lackadaisical attitude in his preparations for the 2013-2014 season as he did when he failed to touch down the Patriots defender after a pass was intercepted right in front of him in London, then Sherman will need to show him some fire to let him know that kind of thing will not be tolerated.
Sam Bradford needs weapons. Brian Quick's development is one of the most important priorities for the Rams this offseason.
Player Development: Michael Brockers
Michael Brockers has proven his ability to be the run-stuffing defensive tackle that the Rams drafted him to be.
Now he needs to work on his pass rush.
Brockers currently ranks 36th on Pro Football Focus' list of best pass-rushing defensive tackles.
That's not good enough.
To be a dominant three-down player in the NFL, a defensive tackle must be able to get pressure on the quarterback in passing situations. Brockers needs to spend the offseason developing his pass-rushing skills to become the kind of complete, dominant player that can affect every play.
Kendall Langford—ranked 42nd by Pro Football Focus—needs to be there, too.
Player Development: Isaiah Pead
Put simply, Isaiah Pead just needs to keep working and stay positive.
Only three running backs were drafted ahead of Pead. You may know their names: Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson—not bad company.
Pead has shown the ability to play at a high level against quality competition. He rushed for 3,288 yards and 27 touchdowns in his career at the University of Cincinnati and was the MVP of the Senior Bowl.
His time to prove what he can do as an NFL running back will come. The lack of instant success is disappointing, I'm sure, but as was stated on stltoday.com:
Achievements don’t always come quickly, in life or football. Some St. Louis fans might remember the curious case of Lyvonia Albert Mitchell. In his rookie season (1981) with the football Cardinals, the 5-foot-9, 190-pound back carried 31 times for 175 yards. In 1982, he collected only 183 yards.
By his fifth season, “Stump” Mitchell had 1,006 yards rushing and led the NFL with an average of 5.5 yards a carry.
Pead may be off to a slow start but that doesn't precluded his chance of a successful NFL career.
Penalties: Clean 'em Up
The St. Louis Rams were the most penalized team in the NFL in 2012.
The majority of penalties occur because of a lack of discipline. Sure, some of them are just honest mistakes that even the best players will make from time to time but when you lead the league in penalties, you have a serious discipline problem.
Much of this can be attributed to the fact that the Rams are the youngest team in the league.
When the 2013 season starts, the Rams team as a whole will be a little older and a little wiser—hopefully a lot wiser after the Rams make eliminating penalties via practicing disciplined football a point of focus this offseason.