The St. Louis Rams spent the 2012 season as the youngest team in the NFL. Free agency played a part in assembling their final roster, as three defensive (LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, CB Cortland Finnegan and DT Kendall Langford) and three offensive (linemen Barry Richardson, Robert Turner and Scott Wells) starters came to St. Louis via free-agent signings.
Wide receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson—both unrestricted free agents—were the top two targets on the team last season, attracting 101 and 82 passes in their direction, respectively. St. Louis is going to need some help at the position, but that’s not the only spot where a veteran could be beneficial.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch listed plenty of names at safety, receiver, tight end, offensive line, outside linebacker and return specialist as potential free-agent additions for the Rams. Some of them have been mentioned in the same breath as St. Louis elsewhere, but the Rams can’t afford to sign everybody.
That just wouldn’t be fair.
The numbers are in: Danny Amendola, 27, isn’t necessarily as valuable to the St. Louis Rams on the football field as one might think (from ESPN.com). He’s unfortunately not the type of receiver that should be franchised, as was speculated in November.
Amendola was the Rams’ No. 1 receiver in 2012, but he wasn’t a No. 1 receiver; the Rams obviously needed help at the position. Part of that was because he missed five games last year (and 15 the year before), but at 5'11", 188 pounds, he doesn’t have the prototypical size for a No.1.
St. Louis would do well to have Amendola back in uniform in 2013 at a rate reflective of his production: 196 catches for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns over 42 games in four seasons. That’s not going to net you wide receiver franchise tag money, which may be why the two sides are reportedly “far apart” on an extended agreement.
A wideout would be due to get over $10 million in 2013 as a tagged player. The Rams do not possess a level of salary cap flexibility to commit that amount of space to one guy whose career production—aside from receptions—rivals that of a season put up by some of the NFL’s best at the position.
Jairus Byrd, 26, would make a fine addition to a St. Louis Rams defensive backfield in need of safety help. The Pro Bowler forced four fumbles and picked off five passes in 2012 for the Buffalo Bills, solidifying his acumen as a ball-hawk. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas noted that “Coach Jeff Fisher said at the end of the season that the Rams needed more takeaways on defense.”
Byrd fits the bill.
A move to sign a guy with 18 interceptions in 62 career games (including three straight seasons of 16 games played) would be applauded by St. Louis fans, but Buffalo is unlikely to let him get away. Last offseason proved that the Bills are unafraid to put their money into shoring up their defense, and Byrd is a candidate to receive the franchise tag if a long-term deal can’t be readily reached.
Buffalo already cut its other starting safety, George Wilson.
Technically, Steven Jackson isn’t yet a free agent. Regarding Jackson’s option to void the last year of his deal with the St. Louis Rams, Jim Thomas wrote:
“[T]ime is running short. Nonetheless, it’s almost universally expected at Rams Park that Jackson will void the contract and explore the free-agent market. The team has yet to meet with Jackson’s agent on the matter.”
A 29-year-old with 2,395 NFL carries under his belt won’t command a free-agent contract that will break the bank, but Jackson is currently riding a streak of eight consecutive 1,000-plus-yard rushing seasons as the focal point of the Rams offense.
If the player expects himself to remain with the team—at a discounted salary, no less—next season, it’s a safe bet that he will continue to be a part of the Rams organization for at least one more shot at the playoffs.
It has been abundantly clear for a long time that the St. Louis Rams need a wide receiver. Greg Jennings has all but run his course with the Green Bay Packers, but Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks says that the Rams aren’t interested in the 5'11" playmaker:
If St. Louis does lose Amendola, it doesn't mean they're going to be in the chase for a big-name, big-money free agent receiver like Greg Jennings or Dwayne Bowe. That's not in the plan for the Rams, who consider Jennings an injury risk himself after his 2012 season[…]
If Jennings is looking for $10 million annually, as CBS’ Jason La Canfora suggests, St. Louis would be in a similar cap spot as it would be if it were to franchise Danny Amendola: a cap-strapped situation with extremely limited flexibility.
Perhaps Jennings is more worthy of that kind of money in 2013, but at least Amendola’s eight-figure salary would be a one-year agreement. If Jennings is making $40 or $50 million, St. Louis would be tied up for a considerably longer period of time—and Jennings is older than the 27-year-old Amendola.
Jennings turns 30 in November.
Atlanta Falcons unrestricted free agent William Moore missed four games in each of the last two seasons, but forced five fumbles and recorded 11 interceptions over the last three years. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported that he would like to try out the open market, perhaps returning to the state in which he played college, Missouri.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 11, 2013
Despite entering the league at the same time as Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills, Moore will be 28 when the 2013 season starts. Byrd will be 26 with a more accomplished statistical resume, which is why he would likely be the St. Louis Rams’ top priority in terms of veterans to fill the safety position.
However, Byrd is highly likely to be retained by the Bills. Moore wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize at all. St. Louis will probably have to cut or restructure its agreement with Quintin Mikell to make the numbers work.
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