Image via St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead are embarking on their second offseason together. During the duo's first season at the helm, they managed to gobble up extra draft picks, draft 10 players in total and turn an aging roster into the youngest in the NFL.
Being the youngest team in the league obviously had its advantages and disadvantages just like anything else. Depending on the week, the Rams would sometimes have five rookies in the starting lineup. By season's end, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and Michael Brockers had all made starts on the defensive side of the ball.
On the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Chris Givens made 13 starts and guard Shelley Smith made six starts at both guard positions. Expect the youth movement to continue as the Rams have a slew of picks in this years draft as well.
However, the addition of a new rookie class ultimately spells trouble for some veteran players. Let's take a look at which players could find themselves on the chopping blocking during the offseason.
It only seems fitting that we start this list off with everyone's favorite villain in the defensive backfield, Craig Dahl. Since being signed by the Rams in 2009, Dahl has managed to start 40 games for St. Louis at both free and strong safety.
Which is amazing considering many fans and media members alike would argue that his play hasn't ever warranted him the opportunity to start that many games. In four seasons of play, he has 39 missed tackles, surrendered six touchdown passes and opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 95.5 when throwing into his coverage area.
Not to mention Dahl is often late with his help defense in coverage. Every week a major flaw in his game seems to crop up somewhere. Sure, he may come on the cheap as he makes just over a million dollars a year, but his up and down play doesn't warrant another shot as the Rams starting free safety.
He's currently scheduled to hit the free-agent market in the coming months. For the sake of the Rams' defense, let's hope they don't make the mistake of re-signing of him. Keep him cut loose—let another team gamble on his inconsistent play.
With St. Louis being strapped for cash, another Dahl may find himself on the chopping block during the offseason. The Rams are currently just below the $10 million threshold in terms of cap space, so an aging veteran like Harvey Dahl could be on his way out before the start of the 2013 season.
Since coming to St. Louis in 2011, he has done everything that has been asked of him. He's played two different positions on the offensive line, he's been a leader for a particularly young group of guys up front and he's gone out and done his job every week.
The only problem is, he hasn't been as effective as he was in Atlanta. To be fair, he hasn't had the same supporting cast around him, but that shouldn't stop him from doing his job to the best of his ability. If the Rams were to cut Dahl before the season started they would save $4 million in cap space.
A good chunk of change for a team that is strapped for cash. The Rams have plenty of low-dollar options on their roster that could serve as potential replacements. Rokevious Watkins, Shelley Smith and Robert Turner are just a few of the names that come to mind.
Moreover, they could also save money by drafting a right guard as well. Dahl's play may not warrant his release, but in the salary cap era, it happens more often than not when a team needs money.
If the Rams want to save another $4 million, they would be wise to cut the under-performing-overpaid right tackle Wayne Hunter. Hunter was originally acquired in a trade for former first-round bust Jason Smith. A change of scenery didn't help either player as both failed to meet expectations in 2012.
Hunter was delegated to mostly backup duty, but he did find his way onto the field in 11 games. He made four starts at left tackle in Rodger Saffold's absence, but found his way back to the bench after Saffold was deemed healthy to return.
In those four starts at left tackle, he surrendered four quarterback sacks, four quarterback hits and 11 quarterback hurries. Moreover, he was penalized three times during that four-game stretch. Unimpressive numbers to say the least considering Hunter is the highest paid tackle on the Rams' roster.
His high cap number will make him an easy cap casualty before the start of the 2013 season.
It has been long acknowledged that 2012 could possibly be the last season running back Steven Jackson would don the blue and gold. He is set to make $7 million in 2013, which prompted the Rams to approach him about a possible restructure.
Ultimately they ended up settling on voiding the final year of his deal, making him a free agent this offseason. Jackson has expressed interest in rejoining the club and working on a quote, unquote retirement contract, but nothing has been openly discussed for some time.
I would have to see Jackson in another team's uniform before I choose to believe it, yet the possibility is real. If the numbers don't work out, it wouldn't be surprising to see him go to a playoff contender. A Super Bowl has always been a desire of his, so you couldn't blame him if he chose to leave St. Louis.
He just surpassed his eighth straight 1,000-yard season, so it's safe to say there is something left in the tank. But is the tank half full, or will he be running on fumes in 2013?
Here is another player's contract that has brought about endless discussion. Starting strong safety Quintin Mikell is due to make $9 million in 2013 and some argue that his play doesn't warrant him to be paid like a top-10 safety.
The people who make that argument definitely have a valid point based on the 2011 season, but if you look at his numbers from 2012, you will see he excelled in coach Fisher's defense. By season's end, he was the fifth best safety in the league according to the analysts at Pro Football Focus.
He excelled as a pass-rusher by tallying three quarterback sacks, two quarterback hits and nine quarterback hurries. No other safety in the league finished with a better pass rushing grade and no other safety finished with more sacks either.
It would be hard to cut a player of his caliber, but like others you have to ask the question, does his pay outweigh his play? Or does his play outweigh his pay? When you can answer that question successfully, the decision becomes that much easier.