With the Super Bowl marking the “official” end of the 2013 season, most of the focus will now shift to free agency and the 2014 NFL Draft. For the St. Louis Rams, that means a lot “trade talks” and debating the needs for the upcoming roster. While there is no consensus take on the Rams current corps of wide receivers, there are certainly some positions that everyone has marked in their “needs” column. One of those inarguable spots is safety, a position marred by both inexperience and injury last season in St. Louis.
Heading into the 2014 season, there are two realistic avenues that St. Louis Rams could go down. The most obvious of those would be to simply draft one of the top safety prospects in the upcoming draft. Sitting at No.13 in the opening round, most speculate that St. Louis would have their pick of the class, with both Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor expected to go in the Top 15-25 range. Drafting a top prospect would give the St. Louis Rams one of the youngest starting secondaries in the NFL, with two “juniors” in Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, and one “sophomore” in T.J. McDonald.
The other option would be trying the free agent market. This offseason, there are a number of top tier safeties that are expected to “test the water,” including both the Browns’ T.J. Ward and Bills’ Jairus Byrd. Both players were Pro Bowl-caliber last season, ranking No.3 and No.8 among safeties, respectively, according to Pro Football Focus. However, with the Rams’ head pressed firmly against the proverbial salary cap ceiling (as it currently stands), it is unlikely they would be able to front the money necessarily to draw either player to St. Louis.
So, is that it? Not necessarily…
One free agent that is not being talked about is Bernard Pollard, the journeyman safety that played for table scraps in Tennessee last season. Pollard, also known as the “Patriot Killer” as a result of his devastating hits against several New England players, is surprisingly going unnoticed in this youth-filled free agent class. He has been a consistent performer in the league, including ranking 17th among starting deep secondary players last season, after finishing with 99 tackles (only eight missed tackles), three interceptions, and 10 pass deflections. More impressively, Pollard was the linchpin addition that helped transform the Titans’ 4th-worst graded pass coverage unit in 2012 to an impressively-high 9th-best unit in 2013.
There are numerous reasons that Bernard Pollard would be an attractive pickup for the St. Louis Rams. First, he is a “veteran” safety that is still, arguably, in the prime of his career. Secondly, he has already played under Gregg Williams, and could serve as a “player-coach” during the defensive installation process this offseason. Thirdly, Pollard fits the Jeff Fisher-style of hybrid safety, and would bring some much-needed toughness back to the secondary group. Lastly, his contract should come cheap, having counted only $2 million against the Tennessee Titans’ salary cap last season.
If Jeff Fisher and Les Snead aren’t in love with any of the 2014 safety prospects this year, Bernard Pollard could certainly be a player to keep an eye on, especially if Gregg Williams has any say in the matter!