5 Big Moves St. Louis Rams Could Make in 2014 NFL Free Agency
The St. Louis Rams are watching the playoffs from home once again, but the front office will do everything in its power to restock the team this offseason and change the team's fortunes in 2014.
The Rams don't have the necessary salary-cap freedom—something I'll cover later this week—to make a major splash in free agency as they did in 2013, when they signed Jake Long and Jared Cook, but there are certain moves to be made that will allow some financial freedom.
Cuts can be made, and contracts can be renegotiated. If the Rams really have their heart set on a certain free agent, chances are they'll find a way.
If that happens and St. Louis decides to pursue a big-name talent, here are a few names that could be on the list.
Anquan Boldin, Wide Receiver
Why in the world would St. Louis sign a geriatric receiver with Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans both available in the upcoming draft?
Between Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey and Brian Quick, the Rams already possess a collection of young talent at the wide receiver position. They're certainly not as exciting as Watkins or Evans, but all have the potential to be solid NFL starters.
What the Rams do not have, on the other hand, is a veteran to lead the way.
Anquan Boldin is on the downside of his career, but he's a seasoned veteran who has played in two Super Bowls. His insight and leadership would be a great asset for this team.
Not only will he show the youngsters how it's done, but he's still a productive player. With 85 catches and 1,179 yards in 2013, he clearly has something left in the tank.
Even at 33 years of age, Boldin is a physical presence on the outside and a reliable No. 1 receiver—something the Rams have been sorely lacking in recent years.
Boldin played for a reasonable $6 million in 2013, according to Spotrac, and that price tag will only go down with another year of age.
Alex Mack, Center
Alex Mack is already a two-time Pro Bowler at the age of 28 and will be entering free agency this offseason.
“I’m really happy here,” Mack said. “I’ve had great success with (offensive line coach George Warhop) and being with Joe Thomas and this offensive line is what I want. I think I’m a good player and that’s really what my goal was to be.
That was before the Browns fired head coach Rob Chudzinski. The team has yet to hire a new head coach, and there's always a chance Mack will not click with the new coach. In order to avoid the turmoil in Cleveland, perhaps he'll test the market.
Mack will not come cheap. His contract will approach Nick Mangold's monster contract that averages over $7 million per year, according to Spotrac.
The Rams will likely avoid such a contract and stick with the young Tim Barnes at center, but between Scott Wells and Kevin Mawae, Jeff Fisher has demonstrated a desire to sign veteran centers, so the pursuit of Mack would not come as a total shock.
Alterraun Verner, Cornerback
Here's a pipe dream for Rams fans... signing Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Then again, Jake Long and Jared Cook were both considered pipe dreams for the Rams at this point last year, and look what happened there.
Verner stated that he's definitely planning to test the free agency market this spring, according to Jonathan Hutton of The Zone, so expect him to be available unless Tennessee slaps him with a franchise tag.
Verner, a second-team All-Pro in 2013, is a member of Fisher's final draft class in Tennessee, so the two have a history together.
The Rams have been down this road with the Cortland Finnegan signing in 2012, and the end result was disappointing. However, Finnegan was signed in the twilight of his career at the age of 28, while Verner is well in his prime at the age of 25.
The Rams need a safety more than a corner, but Verner would still be a major upgrade to a pass defense that ranked just 19th in 2013, allowing 242.1 yards per game on average.
Adding Verner to a group that already features Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson would instantly turn cornerback into a team strength.
Jairus Byrd, Safety
With St. Louis' tight cap space, don't be surprised if safety is a position the team pursues in free agency, as safeties generally carry a low price tag.
Outside of tight end, kicker and punter, safety was the lowest costing franchise tag in 2013 at just $6.9 million dollars, according to NFL.com. Compared to the $14 million franchise tag cost for a quarterback or the $10 million price tag for a receiver, safety is very cheap.
It's just a bonus that safety happens to be the most glaring need for St. Louis this offseason.
27-year-old Jairus Byrd is the cream of the crop at safety in free agency this year.
Byrd was slapped with a franchise tag in 2013, but after missing five games in 2013, the Bills may hesitate before doing the same in 2014.
Byrd has been disgruntled due to Buffalo's refusal to sign him to a long-term contract extension, according to CBS Sports. The tension may result in Buffalo allowing him to test the market.
If Byrd is signed to a long-term contract, he'll likely require top-tier money and will pull in close to $6 million per year on average.
That price tag may be a bit out of St. Louis' price range, but he'll be on the Rams' radar nonetheless.
T.J. Ward, Safety
If the Rams are unwilling to fork out the money for Byrd, Cleveland's T.J. Ward is a cheaper alternative.
Ward will get a decent pay day in free agency, but his price tag will fall short of top-tier money for a safety.
Ward is known for his great run support and produced 112 tackles in 2013, but his pass coverage is an underestimated aspect to his game. He certainly performs up to par as a coverage safety.
Combining Ward with T.J. McDonald at safety would give the Rams a frightening duo of hard hitters up top.
Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams' game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer profile or by following him on Twitter.
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