The Definitive Blueprint to St. Louis Rams' Perfect Offseason

Jamal CollierAnalyst IIIJanuary 2, 2014

The Definitive Blueprint to St. Louis Rams' Perfect Offseason

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Before the calendar even switched over to 2014, St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead expressed an interest in trading down from his No. 2 overall pick.

    Of course he's interested. He made that same move two years ago, and it netted him a king's ransom. As a result of the Rams' fortunate position atop the 2014 NFL draft order, projecting the details of their offseason is even more futile than usual.

    The defensive line, tight ends and running backs are both pretty well set in terms of length, value and presence of contracts across the board. The same goes for St. Louis' specialists, but everyone else is subject to being shaken up a bit.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all contract information is used from Spotrac.com.

Secure the Quarterback Position

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    Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    2014 will mark the first year that the St. Louis Rams are in a financial position to part ways with Sam Bradford, regardless of whether they actually wanted to do so. With that leverage (and Bradford's ACL tear), St. Louis can look to reduce the $17.6 million cap hit that Bradford's contract will create next season, probably by way of an extension.

    Meanwhile, Bradford's injury may cause the Rams to need a replacement quarterback in the early part of next season. Kellen Clemens filled that role pretty well in 2013, but the 30-year-old's deal just expired. St. Louis will either need to re-sign him or draft a QB with whom it is comfortable starting a few games as early as Week 1.

    The former is more likely.

Get a No. 1 Wide Receiver

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    The St. Louis Rams are still looking for a true No. 1 wide receiver. Jared Cook led them in receptions (51), targets (83), yards (671) and touchdowns (five).

    He's a tight end.

    Just fewer than 57 percent of the Rams' receiving yards were covered by wideouts, but wide receiver Chris Givens was the only one to account for more than 15 percent of the team's total. By comparison, the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon accounted for 37.6 percent of his team's receiving yardage—in 14 games.

    Maybe the Rams go after a wide receiver from a big school in the first round, but a veteran presence at the position would really do them some good. Gambling on someone like the New York Giants' Hakeem Nicks' health could reap huge benefits.

Offensive Line Adjustments

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Again, the St. Louis Rams' offensive line is in flux.

    The Rams saw much better play from their offensive line than they've become accustomed to, but that is one area where the youngest team in the NFL could stand to get younger. They dealt with several injuries over the year, the worst of which was Jake Long's late ACL tear.

    St. Louis needs someone to take over for him at left tackle for the time being. Given Jeff Fisher's history of avoiding offensive linemen in the first round, though, the Rams probably won't use one of their first two picks on a guy to protect the quarterback. That will have to come on Day 2 of the draft or later.

    Rodger Saffold played well as a guard in 2013. If he's interested in staying there instead of moving back to left tackle, the Rams should re-sign him and perhaps move on from veteran guard Harvey Dahl. Cutting Dahl would free up $4 million in space.

    Center Scott Wells has been on the IR in each of his first two years with the Rams and, like Dahl, is 32 years old. Les Snead could look his way to create some additional cap space.

    Hopefully, Barrett Jones can take over for one of the interior linemen—even left guard Chris Williams is an unrestricted free agent—as a starter next season. Either way, the Rams will need to add depth all across the line.

    Right tackle isn't safe from change, either: Joe Barksdale will be entering the last year of his deal. Will St. Louis lock him up, or bring in someone to challenge him for his job?

Find a Strong Side Linebacker

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    Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

    Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Will Witherspoon each played the veteran linebacker role opposite rookie Alec Ogletree. Both will be unrestricted free agents this offseason. With mainstay James Laurinaitis manning the middle, the Rams are most likely to either bring Dunbar back or use a draft pick on another SAM on Day 1 or Day 2.

    After a four-game suspension, Dunbar's 2013 pact with St. Louis carried a price tag of less than $1 million. He's much more valuable than that to the Rams' defense, but it wouldn't hurt if they can get the 28-year-old to commit to a (relatively) modest deal.

Make a Decision with Cortland Finnegan

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    Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    It's no secret that Cortland Finnegan's 2013 season did not go as planned. As one of the NFL's highest-paid cornerbacks, more was expected of the 29-year-old than his dismal performances this season. His play has been attributed in part to an eye injury, which is understandable—you can't cover what you can't see—but does that mean he'll return to No. 1 status next year?

    The St. Louis Rams may not want to wager $10 million on that.

    Jeff Fisher will want to keep Finnegan around, and the Rams secondary needs his attitude and leadership. However, those qualities are accompanied by a mighty expensive price tag for a guy who may be unable to lead the secondary in production. Les Snead won't want to have to restructure all of his free-agent signings, but Finnegan's is another deal that may need to be reviewed again.

Draft a Running Mate for T.J. McDonald

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    Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Safety play was the St. Louis Rams' biggest weakness on defense for much of the season. T.J. McDonald should be proud of his truncated rookie season, but the Rams need to get him more help. Look for the Rams to draft another safety no later than the second round.

     

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