Jeff Fisher and the St. Louis Rams kicked off the league year with a bang on Tuesday afternoon, going after two high-profile targets in free agency.
Fisher's Rams came to terms on a five-year contract with tight end Jared Cook (per NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal), which just shows that St. Louis is prepared to spend money this offseason to improve the on-field product.
With Cook signed, reports indicate that tackle Jake Long could end up with the Rams as soon as Wednesday if he passes a physical in St. Louis (per NFL Network's Albert Breer).
Also, don't forget that the Rams have two first-round draft picks and could burn one on restricted free agent Victor Cruz. If not, the team is poised to either move up the draft board or land two first-round talents on the first day of the draft.
John Mara says Victor Cruz wants to test his value in restricted free agency. Smart move. Rams could make a serious play for him.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) March 11, 2013
On the offensive side of the ball, St. Louis believes that it has a franchise quarterback in place with Sam Bradford under center. Bradford made underrated strides in 2012, improving his quarterback rating from 70.5 in an injury plagued 2011 to 82.6 last year.
The signal-caller threw for 3,702 yards last season, accumulating 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Upgrading the offensive line can only be a boon to Bradford's production, as more time in the pocket certainly spells better decision making.
As for Cook, the tight end has all of the tools to be a superstar if he can refine his game. More athletic than any of the other pass-catching tight ends on the market, Cook represents a big-time playmaker who will add a dynamic element to the Rams offense.
After breaking down 2012 film, the Rams invariably knew that they needed to capitalize on attacking the middle of the field. If St. Louis wanted to be successful in 2013, the team knew that it had to get a player who could dominate over the middle.
According to Pro Football Focus, Sam Bradford's best performance was over the middle of the field in 2012. He graded out positively throwing over the middle between 10 and 19 yards, completing 28 of his 42 passes for 488 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Now, imagine Jared Cook getting a majority of those targets instead of Lance Kendricks and watch as St. Louis marches down the field in 2013.
One pass-catcher is good, but two star receivers is even better (see Falcons, Atlanta). The Giants plan to tender receiver Victor Cruz at the first-round level, and armed with two-first round draft picks, there's no reason St. Louis can't throw an offer sheet over Cruz's way.
Having to defend Cook and Cruz would be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, especially with bookend pass-blockers in Rodger Saffold and Jake Long stifling any hot blitzes.
Even if the Rams shy away from pursuing Cruz, the team could always draft a star receiver like Keenan Allen or Tavon Austin in the draft.
Selecting either of the two wideouts would drastically improve the Rams roster, as it'd create serious matchup problems for teams attempting to defend a much-improved passing game.
The Rams figure to have enough weapons by the end of the offseason to realistically project astronomical improvements on the part of their offense.
Look for St. Louis to be in contention next year as the team continues to build.
Now follow me on Twitter for more updates throughout this free-agency period @EliNachmany.