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Unrestricted Free Agents
Steven Jackson choosing to void the final year of his contract should not have come as a surprise to anyone. Even if the Rams' statements about wanting him back are genuine, they didn't want to pay him $7 million in order to achieve it.
Jackson wants to win a ring, and he knows he only has a couple more years left in him. Sure, the Rams are on the upswing, but teams like the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots are already championship caliber. If winning a ring is more important to him than finishing his career in St. Louis (I wouldn't blame him if it is), then his best chance lies elsewhere.
More than his production, the biggest loss for the Rams would be Jackson's leadership both on and off the field. However, it's about time Sam Bradford is given the reins to the offense. We need to see what he can do with it.
Danny Amendola has a better shot of returning. His value when on the field is unquestionable, as this article from ESPN's Mike Sando illustrates.
The trouble is his inability to stay healthy. In his four seasons in St. Louis, he has played in 16 games only once. In 2012, he missed five games due to two separate injuries: a collarbone and a heel.
If Amendola is realistic in assessing his own value, it's difficult to believe that he and the Rams will be too far apart. However, early signs indicate that this is not the case.
Kellen Clemens is also unrestricted. If he comes back, it has been made clear that it will be as the third-string quarterback.
Craig Dahl is not likely to return. He played hard, and hit even harder, but his inability to cover receivers downfield made him a liability.
Not much has been said about the Rams' desires concerning Bradley Fletcher, but his midseason demotion to No. 4 on the cornerback depth chart in favor of rookie Trumaine Johnson indicates that the Rams do not see Fletcher as part of their future plans.
If Brandon Gibson comes back, it will be as the No. 4 wide receiver. Despite his career-best year in 2012 and the utterly saturated receiver market, which ensures his relative affordability, Gibson is not what the Rams need. He is a possession receiver. The Rams need a playmaker. They already have a possession receiver on the roster who goes by the name of Austin Pettis. If Gibson's price falls far enough, the Rams may bite just for the sake of consistency, but it's more likely that he gets an offer the Rams will have no trouble refusing.
At 33 years old, backup strong-side linebacker Mario Haggan was one of the few veterans on the youngest team in the league. But, the Rams have enough leadership at the position with James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar to let him walk. His on-field production (13 tackles) will not be missed.
William Hayes was a revelation as a rotational defensive end with 35 tackles and seven sacks in 2012. The Titans' former fourth-round pick followed Jeff Fisher to St. Louis and enjoyed his time on this Rams team. He will re-sign, probably for about 75 percent more than the $900,000 he made in 2012, or $1.575 million. He'll be worth every penny.
That defensive tackle Trevor Laws missed the entire 2012 season with a knee injury was a huge disappointment for Rams fans. The 6'1", 304-pounder was supposed to provide more-than-capable depth behind starters Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford, but was placed on the IR on August 27. If he re-signs, it will be for less than the $700,000 he made in 2012. He could wind up being one hell of a bargain if he stays healthy.
The Rams need to pick up a better starting strong-side linebacker than Rocky McIntosh, either through the draft or free agency.
Barry Richardson was surprisingly solid as the Rams starting right tackle in 2012. He may be brought back, but he won't be handed the job in 2013. Look for Richardson, Joe Barksdale and whomever the Rams decide to bring in through the draft or free agency to compete for the starting right tackle job in 2013. Unless, of course, Richardson is looking for a significant raise, in which case he won't be back.
Lastly, Robert Turner played well for the Rams when he was forced into duty by injuries to Scott Wells, Rokevious Watkins and Rodger Saffold. The Rams would like to have him back, but at not much more than the $540,00 he made in 2012.
Restricted Free Agents
Linebacker Justin Cole and his six tackles will not spend 2013 in the blue and gold.
Jermelle Cudjo was a solid member of the defensive tackle rotation and will likely return.
The Rams would like to have Darian Stewart back. 2012 rookie Matt Daniels—the only one on the roster who could possibly replace him—has a troubling history with knee injuries. With both Dahl and Quintin Mikell possibly being let go this offseason, the Rams might need all the depth at safety they can get.