4 Safeties the St. Louis Rams Should Be Looking at on the Open Market
St. Louis decided it was time for a big change at the safety position, so they parted ways with both Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell. Dahl has since joined the 49ers, and Mikell is still shopping his services around to other teams.
However, there is still an outside chance Mikell returns to the Rams next season at the right price. Yet until that price is set and the deal is done, let's take a look at three other safeties who could potentially help St. Louis in 2013.
Since being cut by the Arizona Cardinals last week, Kerry Rhodes' market has almost been non-existent. That's surprising; he excelled in every facet of his game last year. The analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded him out as the fourth-best safety in 2012.
In coverage, opposing quarterbacks only sneaked two touchdowns past him all season, and the longest reception Rhodes gave up was a 25-yard completion against San Francisco in Week 8. Not to mention the fact that his quarterback rating against was an outstanding 64.5, the 12th-lowest number amongst all safeties PFF graded.
Despite being 30 years old, the Rams could do a lot worse at free safety. He's easily an upgrade over Craig Dahl and anyone else they currently have on their roster. If St. Louis decides to make a play for a veteran free agent, Rhodes should be the first guy they look at.
Like Rhodes, Quintin Mikell is on the wrong side of 30 and is nearing the end of the line physically. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have one or two productive seasons left. During his first year in Jeff Fisher's system, Mikell set career highs in tackles and sacks.
It's also worth mentioning that he forced a total of four fumbles, ultimately tying him for ninth best among all defensive players in the NFL.
Aside from being around the ball at all times and creating turnovers, the 33-year-old safety was one of the league's best against the run. He recorded 39 defensive stops and had three tackles for loss behind the line of scrimmage. Only T.J. Ward and Eric Weddle graded out higher against the run, according to PFF.
Only time will tell if the Rams value Mikell enough to bring him back for a second tour of duty.
A couple weeks back, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Fisher and Les Snead would like him back at the right price. Yet I wouldn't expect the move to happen anytime soon; it's more likely that a move for Mikell wouldn't happen until after the draft.
Bernard Pollard will be looking to join his third different team in five years and is a bit shaky in coverage, but at the line of scrimmage he is still a hard-hitting run defender. He often hits so hard that the opposition is in danger.
Just ask the New England Patriots. Every time he squares off against them, he subsequently knocks one of their players out.
The one upside to Pollard is that he is younger than both Rhodes and Mikell. The market hasn't been hot for him during the first week of free agency, but I expect it to start settling in now that a few dominos have fallen with Louis Delmas and LaRon Landry.
You can't tell me both of those players are head-and-shoulders above Pollard. His 28 defensive stops and 98 total tackles have to intrigue someone. Given the fact his game is so similar to Mikell's, I could see St. Louis at least kicking the tires on him. At the start of the 2013 season he will be 28, so a two- or three-year deal at the right price might end up being an absolute steal.
The last safety the Rams could look at potentially targeting is former San Diego Charger Corey Lynch. Lynch is a bit of an unknown based on the fact Eric Weddle garners so much attention. Yet people shouldn't sleep on him.
He only made four starts for San Diego in 2012, but he was on the field for 505 snaps. When given the opportunity to man the strong safety spot on his own, he notched 21 tackles, four defensive stops and one quarterback hurry. Not earth-shattering numbers by any means. But when you turn on the tape it's easy to see that the flashes of potential are there.
At 27, he's the youngest of the three previous safeties I mentioned, and he would easily be the cheapest option.
The only risk you run with Lynch is that he has never been a starter and may could potentially break down because of it. However, if you look at it from the glass-half-full perspective, you realize he has less wear and tear than any of the other names mentioned.
All four players would be an upgrade to a depleted safety position in St. Louis, and they would all come at a discounted price due to the down free-agent market.