NFL Free Agency: Vincent Jackson and 10 Top Possibilities for the St. Louis Rams
They're led by young quarterback Sam Bradford on offense and middle linebacker James Laurinaitus on the defensive side. St. Louis shocked the league with a 7-9 2010 campaign that fell one game short of winning the NFC West.
They desperately need help in the receiving corps, as well as the interior defensive line and back-up running back position.
Here's a look at 10 possibilities for the St. Louis Rams to sign in the NFL free agent market.
10. Tiki Barber
Formers New York Giants running back Tiki Barber would be a low-risk, high-reward addition to the St. Louis Rams' backfield.
The 36-year-old Barber hasn't played football since the 2006 season, when he rushed for 1,665 yards and made the Pro-Bowl. Unlike most NFL players, Tiki Barber retired playing the best football of his career.
The Rams need a compliment for Steven Jackson, and, assuming he can play at a high level, Tiki Barber is the definiton of a change-of-pace back.
St. Louis could take a chance on this talented veteran and potentially reap the benefits of Barber's talents.
9. Malcolm Floyd
If the St. Louis Rams decide not to shell out big-time money for a wide receiver, Malcolm Floyd could be had at a reasonable price for the receiver position.
For the past two seasons, Floyd has been solid for the San Diego Chargers in an extended offensive role. In 2010, he hauled in 37 receptions for 717 yards and six touchdowns. Floyd is a big target (6'5", 225 lbs.) and a reliable player over the middle of the defense.
He had better numbers than every Rams' receiver last season and would be an instant upgrade at the position.
8. Barry Cofield
New York Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield provides durability and run-stopping talents that the St. Louis Rams are looking for in a defensive tackle.
Cofield doesn't make any spectacular plays, but he's got good size for the defensive tackle position (6'4", 306 lbs.), and in 2010, he recorded 54 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo coached Cofield in New York, so he's familiar with the Giants big man and already well-versed in the 4-3 scheme.
At 27 years old, Barry Cofield is a younger, more productive option than current Rams defensive tackle Fred Robbins.
7. Cullen Jenkins
Cullen Jenkins is a versatile veteran defensive lineman with the perfect blend of experience and effectiveness the St. Louis Rams need in a defensive tackle.
Jenkins played defensive end in the Green Bay Packers 3-4 defense last season and, although he only played in 11 games, managed to tally seven sacks from the position. Jenkins is a highly valued commodity in the currently nonexistent NFL free agent market.
Jenkins does have some injury concerns, but he rebounded very well from his knee surgery in the 2009 season and proved to be one of Green Bay's most consistent run stoppers in their Super Bowl season.
He could move into the defensive tackle slot right away and add talent to the Rams' middle-of-the-road rushing defense.
6. Braylon Edwards
Although Braylon Edwards would love to stay on the New York Jets, the team's lack of cap room could leave Edwards out-looking-in.
That opens up the door for the St. Louis Rams to sign one of the most talented wide receivers in football.
Edwards excelled with the Jets in 2010, collecting 903 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He has a flair for the spectacular catch and can take over the game when he wants to. However, his disappearance in games and propensity for drops keep him from staying amongst the elite receivers in the NFL.
The Rams would gladly welcome a receiver of Braylon Edwards' talent, but until the new collective bargaining agreement is signed, Edwards' status with his current team puts his free agent status on hold.
5. Plaxico Burress
Burress last played in 2008, when he posted pedestrian numbers and battled many injuries. He's recently been released from a two-year prison sentence and re-enters the NFL with many teams wondering if he can play.
The 34-year-old was a deadly red-zone threat and reliable pass catcher when he last played football. The Rams could give him a contract with the belief that Burress will relish his last opportunity in the NFL and work harder than anyone on the team.
Plaxico Burress, like former teammate Tiki Barber, would be a low-risk, high-reward signing for St. Louis.
4. Darren Sproles
San Diego Chargers running back Darren Sproles fills many needs for the talent-hungry St. Louis Rams.
Not only is Sproles a lightning quick third down back, but he's an excellent pass-catching running back and electrifying kick and punt returner. Steven Jackson will still take the bulk of the carries. But the different styles of Jackson and Sproles could be the perfect storm for the Rams running game.
Sproles would inject a quickness the Rams' running game hasn't seen since the Marshall Faulk days. He could flourish in a third down back and passing situation role with the Rams.
3. Brandon Mebane
Brandon Mebane is a rising defensive tackle who could blossom into a great defensive staple for the St. Louis Rams.
With a great blend of quickness and size, Mebane developed into one of Seattle's better defenders in 2010. The 26-year-old has steadily gotten better each season since he was drafted in 2007.
The Rams need some younger talent at defensive tackle, and Mebane is among the better defensive lineman available in free agency.
He would become an immediate starter in St. Louis and a run stopper good enough to take some of the pressure off of defensive end Chris Long.
2. Sidney Rice
A hip-injury cost him a good portion of his 2010 season, but in 2009, Rice exploded onto the scene, catching 83 pass for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. He's a 6'4", 204 lb. quality athlete with great hands and an all-around talent. Most people don't know he's one of the better blocking receivers in the NFL.
Rice is merely 24 years old, and signing him long-term would give rising star Sam Bradford a legitimate No.1 wide receiver to work with for many years to come.
Some question whether or not Rice's 2009 season was a fluke, but it's pretty scary to picture Bradford, Rice and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels working together in 2011.
1. Vincent Jackson
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson will be one of the highest valued players in free agency because he possesses elite physical tools and gaudy statistical prowess.
Jackson sat out the first 10 games of the 2010 season because of a contract dispute, but proved he's still one of the best receivers in the league by averaging 17.2 yards per catch and scoring three touchdowns in limited play.
Before 2010, Jackson led the league in yards per catch in consecutive seasons. He's physically imposing (6'5", 230 lbs.), and his deep threat talent is among the best at the receiver position.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford can sling the football down the field, and pairing him with a motivated Vincent Jackson could emerge into one of the top quarterback-receiver combinations in all of the NFL.
He will come at a big price for St. Louis. But if Jackson continues to play at the level he's capable of, there's no telling how high his impact could be in the St. Louis offense.
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