St. Louis Rams' Blueprint for Winning Free Agency
With free agency set to kick off on Tuesday, March 11, things are about to get interesting in the NFL.
The St. Louis Rams were initially pegged as free-agency spectators rather than participators, thanks to tight salary-cap space, but recent developments have created some wiggle room. As a result, Tuesday will be a fun day for Rams fans, as their team will have an opportunity to fill several needs with a few key signings.
Everyone has their opinion on what the Rams should or shouldn't do in free agency. But this article will cover a few things I would like see from the Rams at the start of free agency.
This is my blueprint for St. Louis to win free agency.
Pick a DB, Any DB
When it comes to St. Louis' No. 13 pick in the draft, there seems to be a consensus that the team should pursue a defensive back.
Some, including me, have argued for taking a cornerback with that pick (Justin Gilbert), while others have advocated taking a safety (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Calvin Pryor).
The Rams will have an opportunity to settle this argument in free agency.
If the team signs cornerback Alterraun Verner from the Tennessee Titans, it would be hard to justify taking Gilbert at No. 13. The same would hold true for a safety if the Rams sign T.J. Ward or Jairus Byrd in free agency.
By signing a defensive back in free agency, the Rams will have the opportunity to solidify their draft-day strategy once and for all.
Don't Give into the Demands of Rodger Saffold
The Rams need to stick to their guns when it comes to retaining in-house free agent Rodger Saffold.
The team needs to come out and state what it's willing to pay him. If his camp feels the offer is below market value, then so be it. Let him walk. Do not make a counter-offer or overpay.
The Rams were able to recover from letting Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola walk a year ago, so surely they can overcome the loss of an injury-prone lineman who struggles to stay on the field.
No offense to Saffold, but that's just the reality of the situation.
Of all the young, talented players the Rams must retain on a second contract (Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn, Janoris Jenkins, Sam Bradford, etc.), Saffold is far down the list.
So if he is asking for the moon, let him walk. Save that contract for other players...whom the Rams actually have to retain.
Do Not Overspend
Hopefully, the Rams can make a solid signing or two and increase the level of talent on the roster. But there's no need to jeopardize the future.
Signing the young stars on the roster to extensions and second contracts is far more important than securing a list of flashy names in free agency.
Signing a single big-name player, such as Verner or Byrd, is not going to bankrupt the team. But signing two or three high-priced players could jeopardize the future of some of the young, keystone players on the roster.
General manager Les Snead and vice president Kevin Demoff have not given any indication that they're foolish enough to do such a thing. But given the pressure to sell tickets in the midst of relocation rumors, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as the pressure to compete in the tough NFC West, it's possible they'll get overzealous when pursuing free agents.
At Least Make an Offer to Alterraun Verner
Maybe I'm getting my hopes up, but I'll be disappointed if the Rams do not at least make a courtesy phone call to the Verner camp, just to say "hello."
It's understandable if the Rams are unable to lock up the 25-year-old All-Pro, as he'll have many suitors, but at least reach out.
It's not a bad idea to remind him which coach initially saw his potential and spent a fourth-round draft pick on him (Jeff Fisher). And while he's on the line, the team might as well remind him who coached him to an All-Pro season (Gregg Williams).
Again, I don't expect him to sign with St. Louis. I just hope he gets a call to remind him who his friends are.
Be Willing to Overlook the Big Names
Some of St. Louis' most valuable signings in free agency, at least in recent years, have not come from big-time contracts for flashy names but rather modest contracts for underrated, low-level free agents.
The William Hayes signing in 2012 was initially overlooked but has been arguably the best pickup in free agency since the start of the Fisher era. He has 12 sacks in two seasons with the Rams and is one of the reasons why St. Louis' pass rush is one of the most feared in football.
Hayes was initially signed to a one-year deal in 2012 for a modest $900,000, according to ESPN.
Linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar is another example. He had a down year in 2013, but he was a keystone player on defense in 2012. He was signed in 2012 to a two-year deal worth just $3.05 million, according to Yahoo! Sports.
As a result, there's no shame in passing over the big names and instead searching for underrated players who carry modest price tags.
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.