Prior to the Les Snead and Jeff Fisher era, the terms ‘big name’ free agent and ‘St. Louis Rams’ were never uttered in the same sentence. Since then, they have made a number of large acquisitions over the offseason, including Cortland Finnegan, Scott Wells, and, most recently, both Jared Cook and Jake Long. A young, up-and-coming squad with a “player’s coach” is always enticing to free agents, but will the St. Louis Rams make any moves this offseason?
That question is difficult to answer at this point, with no knowledge of restructured deals, cap casualty cuts, and re-signings. However, the St. Louis Rams could certainly carve out some space to bring at least one newbies into the organization. So, with that assumption in mind, who might the Rams consider in free agency?
Eric Decker, WR (Denver Broncos)
Despite how the situation may look in Denver, there are plenty of holes that need to be filled on both the offensive and defensive side of the football. Plugging those holes and maintain several of the massive contracts on their roster could certainly become cumbersome by the start of free agency, which might leave Eric Decker testing the free agent waters.
With Peyton Manning tossing him the football, Decker has put together back-to-back 1,000+ yard season in Denver, snagging double-digit touchdowns in both years. Even in the Tim Tebow-era, Decker still managed 600+ yards and eight touchdowns, despite their extremely run-dependent offense and Tebow’s keying in on Demaryius Thomas in the passing game. At 6’3, 214 lbs., Decker would certainly fill an immediate need for a veteran, “true” outside wide receiver in St. Louis. Not only does he have the size and experience that the Rams receiving core greatly lacks, he is also relatively young, sitting at 26 years old by the time the free agent flood doors open.
T.J. Ward, S (Cleveland Browns)
Outside of Cleveland, the only name most people can recognize in the Browns’ secondary is Joe Haden. However, T.J. Ward has consistently graded out as one of the top secondary players in the NFL (No.3 overall in 2013, No.6 overall in 2012). Not only can he ballhawk in a deep zone, Ward is also a physical, downhill tackler that will finish among the Top 3 in tackles on any given Sunday for the Browns. The young stud defensive back should be a prized possession in Cleveland, but with dysfunction in the front office, question marks surrounding some big-contract positions (i.e. no quarterback and re-signing Alex Mack), and no head coaching hire in sight, it is very much a possibility that Ward could sneak onto the free agent marker prior to some extension being offered.
Much like Eric Decker, his under-the-radar performances will likely push his price tag down into a respectable range, especially with a handful of other notable safeties likely to be campaigning for big-time contracts. If he were to land in St. Louis, the “T.J. Twins” would likely be considered one of the top, young safety duos in the league. Even better, the Rams would have four starting defensive backs under the age of 26. Not bad, not bad at all.
Anquan Boldin, WR (San Francisco 49ers)
If the Rams were to take the “elder statesman” route in free agency, they would likely target a player that can both contribute at a position of need and brings other significant intangible assets to the team. A veteran presence in the wide receiver corps is certainly an “area of need,” especially with toughness and raw catching ability being an issue over the last couple of seasons. Boldin is likely the best in the business when it comes to grinding out catches in the NFL, despite an inability to consistently gain separation or burn defensive backs down the field.
Moreover, Boldin would bring a U-Haul van of intangible assets. His leadership, playoff experience, and attitude are all obviously top qualities that would be expected with any veteran signing. However, Boldin would also bring an unprecedented amount of knowledge about the San Francisco 49ers, having been the “cornerstone” of the offense for much of the season, prior to the return of Michael Crabtree. Moreover, anytime you can take away a “key” piece of a division rival’s roster, it is always an added bonus.