Free Agents the St. Louis Rams Should Pursue

Hello readers! To start off my first blog, I should introduce myself. My name is Vince Cianciolo, and I am a third year university student. I have been a huge fan of the St. Louis Rams for many years, and I feel that I can contribute clear and thorough opinions on the team. I have many ideas on what to write about regarding the Rams, and I hope you all enjoy my writings!

Despite a solid draft day from the St. Louis Rams, there are still holes in the roster that need to be filled, which will be possible through free agency whenever this lockout issue is solved. If the Rams can pick up key free agents, they will definitely be a top playoff contender in the NFC West, and could possibly make a push toward Super Bowl contention. In this post, I will list the top 5 needs by position of the Rams, followed with possible free agents to fill those holes (I went about picking these players based on the unofficial 2011 free agent list provided by nfl.com – http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d81fe597d/article/unofficial-list-of-potential-fas-including-four-and-fiveyear-vets). Also, I will point out other notable free agents that could possibly be picked up if my first selection is not available.

Top 5 Position Needs:

1: Wide Receiver – Sidney Rice
Height: 6-3, Weight: 202 pounds, Age: 24
2010 Stats: 17 Receptions, 280 Yards, 16.5 YPC Average, 2 Touchdowns

Although the Rams drafted two wide receivers in the previous draft (Austin Pettis and Greg Salas), and a receiving tight end (Lance Kendricks), the team is still in desperate need for a #1 wide receiver. I believe that Sidney Rice is the perfect fit for the Rams, because he is a tall, tough, aggressive receiver who can win the battle for the jump ball, and can beat corner backs with his strength and speed. He is also a sure handed receiver who shows great consistency, which is what was wrong with the receivers last season (with the exceptions of Mark Clayton and Danny Amendola). Despite his low numbers from last season due to injury, Rice had a stellar 2009/2010 season, finishing with 83 receptions, 1312 yards, 15.8 yards per catch average, and 8 touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings. It is evident through these numbers that Rice is a great talent that has the full ability to be a #1 receiver for Sam Bradford, and he has age on his side. If the Rams can get this receiver, their offense will be tough to stop.

Other Notables: Re-Signing Mark Clayton, Mike Sims-Walker, Vincent Jackson, Braylon Edwards.

2: Running Back – Darren Sproles
Height: 5-6, Weight: 190 Pounds, Age: 27
2010 Stats: 50 Carries, 267 Yards, 5.3 Per Carry Average, 0 Touchdowns
59 Receptions, 520 Yards, 8.8 YPC Average, 2 Touchdowns

It is very clear that the Rams are in desperate needs of a consistent and effective backup running back for Steven Jackson, because the star running back can only take so much punishment from his heavy work load. Darren Sproles is the perfect change of pace running back that the Rams terribly need. One significant stat I would like to point out is his yards per run average, which is 5.3 yards, higher than Steven Jackson’s. Basically, when Sproles does get to run with the ball, he is effective and consistent, which would make it difficult for teams to prepare for the Rams running game, having to focus on both Jackson and Sproles. Sproles is also highly effective in the passing game, which would fit well with the style of offense that offensive co-coordinator Josh McDaniels likes to run, and would add yet another dimension to the Rams offensive package, and backfield. Sproles is also highly effective in the return game, which is important because he would provide Bradford with better field positions to get the ball into the end zone.

Other Noteables: Jerious Norwood, Ahmad Bradshaw (Too much money though), Jerome Harrison, Cadillac Williams.

3: Guard – Deuce Lutui
Height: 6-4, Weight: 338, Age: 28
2010 Stats: 16 Games Started

With a pretty solid offensive line, I believe that there is still one more hole to fill at right guard, which would make the Rams’ O-line tough and solid. Deuce Lutui is the perfect fit for the O-line, because he is a tough, mean, and great run blocker. However, the most important aspect of Lutui is the fact that he does not get hurt, consistently staying healthy. For the past three season, Lutui has started all 16 games, which is very impressive for an offensive lineman. It is important for the Rams to protect Sam Bradford, and a player like this, who can play every game, is essential for that to happen. The Rams also have the option to stick with John Greco, who is already on the roster, because it seems like he has fairly high potential, and could save them some money. But, I believe that if the Rams want a solid right guard without having to take a chance on Greco, they should pick up Lutui.

Other Notables: Trai Essex, Robert Gallery, Harvery Dahl, Nick Cole, Daryn Colledge.

4: Safety – Quintin Mikell
Height: 5-10, Weight: 203 Pounds, Age: 30
2010 Stats: 88 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble, 3 Interceptions

With the departure of O.J. Atogwe, the Rams now have a glaring hole at the safety positions. Despite the fact that they have Craig Dahl and James Butler on the roster, the Rams still need to find a top safety. The Rams also picked up a solid safety in the draft in Jermale Hines, but he is a player who needs to be developed before he can contribute in the secondary. Therefore, Quintin Mikell is the perfect fit for the Rams secondary for several reason. First of all, Mikell would contribute greatly in stopping the run, which is an aspect the team had some trouble with last season. Also, Mikell is effective in the passing game as well, which shows how he is such an all around player, who can effectively and consistently contribute on all parts of the defensive scheme. Thirdly, Mikell has deep ties with Spagnoolo, which can attract him to the team, but more importantly, he can work well under Spags’ defensive system. Mikell is the epitome of a Spagnuolo safety, one who can be physical and make tackles, while also covering opposing receivers well.

Other Notables: Roman Harper, Atari Bigby, Jordan Babineaux, Eric Weddle.

5: Outside Linebacker – Ernie Sims
Height: 6-0, Weight: 230 Pounds, Age: 26
2010 Stats: 55 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

With a solid middle linebacker in James Laurinitis, the Rams need to find outside linebackers that can work well around the young, but promising Laurinitis. A Spagnuolo linebacker is not one who necessarily pass rushes and gets to the quarterback, but is a player who is smart, instinctive, and can tackle well. I believe that Ernie Sims is a smart enough player to contribute well in Spags’ defensive scheme. He can tackle well, is good in coverage, and can pressure the quarterback when the time comes. Sims is a consistent, pro bowl potential linebacker, who despite only being 26 years of age, has plenty experience in the league after spending seasons with the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. Also, Sims is a leader who can spark a defence in tough situations. I believe that if the Rams picked up Sims, their front seven would be much better and more of a solid group.

Other Notables: Ben Leber, Thomas Davis, Chad Greenway (Franchise Tagged by the Minnesota Vikings), Justin Durant, Brandon Johnson.

Now, of course, it would be nearly impossible to sign all of those five free agents, simple because of cap space. However, the Rams are very close to clinching the NFC West, and making a push toward a Super Bowl title. Despite the fact that the Rams have a solid group that can compete with most teams in the NFL, they still need to make some moves through free agency in order to complete their full revival, and begin a period of consecutive playoff appearances. I believe that if the Rams can pick up even two of the players listed above (most importantly Sidney Rice, or any other notable wide receivers), the team could shine, and beat some of the best teams in the league. The Rams have a very challenging schedule next season, and if they want to win the NFC West, free agency will be and important process.

Vince Cianciolo
Go Rams Go

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