Ranking the Impact of St. Louis Rams' 5 Free-Agent Moves so Far

Steven Gerwel@Steve_GerContributor IIIMarch 23, 2014

Ranking the Impact of St. Louis Rams' 5 Free-Agent Moves so Far

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    The St. Louis Rams have basically opted for a rain check on this year's free-agency feeding frenzy.

    The team has yet to sign a single outside free agent, but sometimes a team's silence is just as potent as the earth-shattering contracts. Non-moves in free agency are still solid moves in some cases. 

    On the surface, it appears the Rams are sleeping at the wheel. But that's far from the case. The team has made a number of strategic moves that will benefit the franchise in the long run. 

    These are the top five moves (and non-moves) so far in free agency for St. Louis. 


5. Reaching out to Alterraun Verner

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    The Rams were one of many teams to reach out to Alterraun Verner, according to NFL.com, but the All-Pro corner ultimately signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    As I mentioned prior to free agency, it would have been a disappointment if the Rams did not inquire about Verner. It wasn't a match, for whatever reason, but at least the Rams are apparently aware that the cornerback position needs some reinforcements. 

    Verner signed for a modest contract under $6.5 million per year annually, per Spotrac. And while that's certainly an affordable price tag, the Rams are still better off eyeing a rookie corner with the No. 13 pick in the draft. 

4. Allowing Shelley Smith and Chris Williams to Walk

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    Interior linemen Shelley Smith and Chris Williams combined for 18 total starts in 2013. And while both players helped solidify the St. Louis offensive line last season, it was not worth retaining either player. 

    Williams signed with the Buffalo Bills on a $13.5 million deal, according to NFL.com, while Smith secured a more modest two-year deal worth $5.5 million, according to the Sun Sentinel

    Both players were castoffs upon arriving in St. Louis. It's only logical to assume that the Rams can turn other low-level linemen into viable starters without matching the contracts offered to Williams and Smith. 

    And with Barrett Jones and Brandon Washington already on the roster being developed, there's no reason to overpay for talent that is average at best.

3. Hosting Henry Melton

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    Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton ultimately signed with the Dallas Cowboys, but it was smart of St. Louis to at least host a visit for Melton, according to ESPN

    Melton is one of the better pass-rushing tackles in the NFL. Lining up Melton next to Michael Brockers (as well as Chris Long and Robert Quinn) would have produced unbelievable results for an already stout St. Louis pass rush. 

    It's unfortunate that Melton and the Rams were unable to hammer out a deal. But this tells us that the Rams still see room for improvement on the defensive line, and don't be surprised if the position is targeted in the upcoming draft. 


2. Re-Signing Jo-Lonn Dunbar

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    Jo-Lonn Dunbar excelled for the Rams in 2012, but he was a shell of his former self in 2013. 

    Regardless, re-signing Dunbar was the wise decision. Had Dunbar walked, the Rams would have been left with second-year undrafted free agents Ray-Ray Armstrong and Daren Bates to compete for the starting linebacker job opposite Alec Ogletree. 

    Armstrong and Bates have both flashed promising potential, but it's better they earn the starting job rather than inheriting it out of necessity. 

    Having Dunbar provides the Rams with a great deal of insurance in case Armstrong and Bates are behind in their development. 

1. Re-Signing Rodger Saffold

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    As Rams vice president Kevin Demoff has mentioned in the past, one of the highest priorities within the organization is retaining the young in-house free agents entering their second contract. 

    The Rams were able to back up the words of Demoff by re-signing tackle Rodger Saffold to a five-year deal worth $31.3 million with only $11 million guaranteed, according to ESPN

    As I pointed out recently, it appeared from the beginning that St. Louis had the salary-cap room to make just one major move in free agency. It appears that re-signing Saffold was that move. 

    And in the end, it's the move that makes the most sense. 

    Retaining Saffold allows the Rams to focus on other options in the draft, such as big-play receiver Sammy Watkins or defensive stud Jadeveon Clowney. 

    Also, with Jake Long still recovering from his 2013 knee injury, the Rams needed another veteran lineman on the roster with starting experience at left tackle, and Saffold certainly fits the bill. 

    Even though the Rams have failed to attract outside free agents, the return of Saffold at a reasonable price makes free agency a success for St. Louis.