Who Will Wear The Gold and Blue In 2012?
Nothing divides a fan base quite like talking about prospects in the draft, or players in free agency. That’s because we get attached too easily. We find players that have done well in the past, or have untapped talent, and see them as the missing link. Unfortunately in the NFL it is much more complicated than a gut-feeling. How healthy is the player, can he still play, why hasn’t he reached his potential yet, is he affordable, and most importantly, does he fill a role for our team?
Personnel people, coaches, and general managers are like terrible boyfriends, they don’t want to get attached. They are only looking for one thing… value. They don’t need Reggie White in free agency, they need a guy that can fill a hole for them. All teams will tell you they want to build through the draft, but each year there may be some positions that are hard to solve in that years draft class. Free agency is how teams can fill roles that might otherwise be left bare. It’s not always about finding a pro-bowler, it’s about finding depth, role-players, and specific attributes for your team.
The Rams desperately need to upgrade many positions, both in terms of depth and overall talent. The Rams also have a brand new coaching staff which means they are looking for players to fill new roles and do different things. This can lead to a lot of organizational turnover in the first 2 years, and that can’t always happen purely through the draft. I would look for the Rams to be a major player in free agency this year. I would also look for them to release a lot of players that will catch many fans off guard to make room for there new additions. That kind of thing comes with the territory of changing coaching staffs.
I will start by listing some of the offensive free agents I believe the Rams will look at this year. Some may be too expensive, some may be too old, and some may end up elsewhere, but I believe the following players will be on the Rams short list, and I’ll tell you why…
Dan Connolly, C, New England: A classic rule of free agency is to sign young talent to their second contract, and Dan Connolly would fit the bill. He is a young talent that comes from this area, which could be a recruiting selling point, and started for a Super Bowl team last year. Honestly, I don’t think he fits the typical Fisher prototype, but I think Connolly could be interested in returning to the area and I don’t think the Patriots will re-sign him. He is savy pass-blocker, and a smart guy. He would be an asset to Bradford. It’s likely he’s on our list, and for the right price he could be our starter in 2012. I feel he would be an upgrade over Wragge. I also think Jason Brown will be gone next year, which means you’ll need another player that can fill in at Center. You definitely check the price tag on Dan Connolly.
Ben Grubbs, G, Baltimore: Another young ascending talent from a playoff team. Grubbs will be very expensive, and there will be a competition for his services. He will likely walk out of Baltimore because they need to sign their QB and tag their RB, so they simply can’t afford to keep a guy that will command the resources Grubbs will. The Rams need a dominant guard; however, it’s not Fishers style to to get a top flite O-lineman in free agency, so I would say this is a long shot. The big factor here is Bradford. Fisher may decide that this move could help solidify the line, and he could use Stan’s big wallet to pull the trigger. Fisher never had the resources to do that in Tennessee, and was known for developing small school tackles into great guards. He may choose to skip that step and lock up Grubbs for the next few years. Sam Bradford would be thrilled with this, but Rams fans may not be. There wouldn’t be a ton of money left after a big move like this, so those looking for a flashier acquisition may be disappointed.
Jake Scott, G, Tennessee: Scott is not young, but he isn’t old. The trick in this move may be getting him away from the Titans, where his former line coach is now his head coach. But money talks, and the Titans don’t have as much as the Rams do. If Scott was to go anywhere else you’d think St. Louis would be at the top of his list, as he played the majority of his strong career with Fisher as his head coach. He can still play at a very high level and can provide some veteran leadership for the line and offense as a whole. I’d expect heavy pursuit of Scott’s services if he is not re-signed by the Titans.
Chad Rinehart or Kraig Urbik, G’s, Buffalo: Want to know why the Bills had such a great running attack in 2011? They had two great guards that graded out phenomenally in the run last year. The Bills need to spend so much money to make their team better and I see them letting one of these young fella’s walk, as both of their contracts are up. Neither are sexy pick-ups, but both performed fantastic last year, and could continue to grow and improve here with Fisher. The Rams will keep a close eye on these guys should they hit the market.
This is a position that may be best filled in the draft, as we have a starter now, and need a great #2, as both coaches prefer a two-back system, but here are some possible options.
Cadillac Williams, RB, St. Louis: He showed glimpses of what he used to be in a limited capacity last year. If he continues to rebound from injuries early in his career “Caddy” may be our best bet as a veteran back behind Steven. He has a different style, and could emulate things that LT did for Schottenheimer in New York. He would provide an affordable patch at the position next year, while maintaining a sizable upside were he to return to full form. I’d say it’s at least a 50/50 chance he returns in 2012.
Mike Tolbert, RB, San Diego: Tolbert is a young talent with low miles. He is the gritty kind of player that Fisher and Schotty both like. There are things about Tolbert worth being concerned about, but he would bring a totally different element to the offense when he is in the game. I could see the Rams having a strong interest in Tolbert this off-season.
This is the hardest position to predict, as the Rams will undoubtedly continue to upgrade here in the draft (the question is in what round), and many of the top FA’s in this class may get tagged or re-signed. I will list a few the Rams will watch, and provide a little analysis on others.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, St. Louis: For the right price St. Louis would do itself a big favor by keeping a scrappy veteran reciever like Lloyd. He makes others around him better, and can make every catch. He may have the best hands in football, and that kind of assurance is exactly what Bradford needs. The hard part could be luring him back after last year. He wants to play for a winner, and if we can convince him that things are on the upswing it will work in our favor. He would love to follow McDaniels, but his agent, Tom Condon, hates the Patriots. Condon went as far as to say, “we treat the (the NFL) like there are only 31 teams”, yikes! So Lloyld’s best bet at a successful role may be here in St. Louis with a QB that believes in him. I think this is another 50/50 shot for St. Louis.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans: I’m skeptical of Colston, mainly because he has put up good numbers in a great offense. The offense he’s in now has given him the ultimate chance at being successful, and he has responded by putting up consistent and respectable numbers. He cannot be a runaway dominant, number-one receiver in St. Louis, but he can be a steady receiver that knows how to get open and someone that gives Bradford a person to throw the ball to. I think the Rams will give him a great offer, but won’t give him Brandon Marshall money, because simply, he’s not even close to being as good. The Rams would do themselves a big favor by being competitive for his services, and Sam would be the biggest benefactor.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis: If Peyton doesn’t come back I would doubt that Wayne would either. He would be another casualty on the Irsay youth movement. Wayne would make a great tool for Sam, he is reliable, consistent, and could provide veteran leadership for the team. Wayne is getting older though, and might not be capable of being “the guy” anymore. If you could pair him with someone like Lloyd, Coltston, Blackmon, or another talented guy I think he could be a big time-value. But to have a great value you’d have to have a great price. Could the Rams get Wayne for “#2 wide receiver money”? He is also the kind of player Fisher and Schottenheimer like, and for that reason I think he will get a call from the “3-1-4″.
Others who are likely to be watched, but may be tagged or resigned…
- Dwayne Bowe – Lots of questions, none of which are talent.
- DeSean Jackson- Can he go untagged, I’m hearing he will get tagged and traded cheap. Is a player who “went to lunch” in 2011 worth anything to the Rams?
- Dominik Hixon- We know he can make awesome one-handed catches, the question is can he do it without tearing an ACL?
Kellen Clemens, QB, St. Louis: It makes sense, right? He has been with Schotty for years, and was here last year as a backup to Sam. I think this is a strong possibility.
Jason Campbell, QB, Oakland: He will be out of Oakland in 2012 because of their salary cap debacle, and will likely not get a starting offer coming off an injury. This could be a nice home for him (guys want to play for Fisher). If Sam were to go down, or God forbid struggle, next year he would be a great backup. He has starting experience and is a former first round pick. Fisher likes experience with his #2 Qb’s, and Campbell would be a welcome addition.
Tell me how right I am and leave a comment…
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