Editor’s note: This is a guess post from Kevin Roberts of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow Fantasy Football Overdose on twitter at @NBAandNFLInfo, and for more information on St. Louis Rams stats, news and rumors – visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
The St. Louis Rams were once again mediocre in 2013, largely thanks to a brutal NFC West division and the loss of quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) near mid-season. The good news, however, is that despite long odds, the Rams established an effective rushing attack, leaned on an improving defense, and played mostly competitive football down the stretch.
That’s actually an understatement. Even without Bradford, St. Louis rocked the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, and New Orleans Saints, and even pushed the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans to their limits.
The Rams’ inability to light teams up with a potent passing attack made them play ball-control offense, which helped balance them out and ride to a decent 7-9 record. Even better news? Bradford will be back in 2014 to pick up where he left off (having arguably his best season yet), while the Rams have two first round picks in the 2014 NFL Draft to help round their roster out.
However, a long offseason is ahead, and before the Rams can start figuring out how to make their way through this year’s draft, they’ll need to decide what veteran players are worth bringing onto their roster. Last year they made the decision to let Danny Amendola and Steven Jackson walk, while bringing on tackle Jake Long and tight end Jared Cook.
A year later, they’re still looking for a true #1 wide receiver and will once again be in need of offensive line help. Whether or not they get better in those areas in free agency or the draft remains to be determined. However, there are several players out there on the open market that could help the Rams get where they need to be. Let’s take a look at five guys that could very well do just that:
Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos
Danny Amendola wasn’t a No.1 wide receiver when the Rams let him walk last year, but he was much closer to one than anyone else they have now. That means they need to find someone who can actually be that guy. I think there’s a pretty good chance they’ll do that in the draft with one of their two first round picks, but what if they can get it done by signing Decker?
Decker doesn’t look like a true No.1 guy at first glance, but he probably can be. He absolutely has the size and skill-set to be that guy – especially when you consider the supporting talent already existing in St. Louis’ passing attack. There’s the chance Decker can’t live up to the paycheck, but it may be a risk the Rams need to be willing to take.
Eugene Monroe, OT, Baltimore Ravens
The aforementioned Long will be rehabbing a torn ACL and Rodger Saffold is schedule to hit free agency. The easy call is to bring back Saffold, but thanks to his own checkered injury history, the Rams might actually be better off bringing in a new face. A healthy Long can play either tackle spot, while Monroe is the top tackle on the open market and is perfect for the left side. Bradford didn’t hurt his knee in the pocket last year, but his protection has been sketchy at best throughout his career, so making sure their o-line is top notch is pretty key.
Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills
Byrd is the man. He can help in run support, is borderline elite in coverage, and even makes plays. The Bills clearly have undervalued him and he’s almost certainly going to play elsewhere in 2014. Why not St. Louis? The Rams slightly upgraded in the back of their defense last year, but I’m still not sold at either safety spot. T.J. McDonald hopefully can lock one spot down, but the other is basically up for grabs. Byrd definitely won’t come cheap, but making sure the secondary is finally solidified will be worth the hefty price. It’s a move the Rams have to make to take the next step. Browns safety T.J. Ward would be the next man on the list in free agency, and he wouldn’t be that much of a downgrade from Byrd.
Sam Shields, CB, Green Bay Packers
Corner isn’t a huge need at the moment, as the Rams have two extremely talented cover men starting for them right now. Unfortunately, Cortland Finnegan wasn’t his usual dominant self in 2013 and will be owed $9 million next year. It’s not crazy to think he could be a cap casualty. Whether or not that happens, the Rams could use some corner depth. Shields was exceptional for the Packers the past couple of years and could be ready to take his game to the next level. He should be cheaper that the other top corners on the open market, and probably a lot cheaper than Finnegan, as well. He could either be Finnegan’s replacement or an elite nickel corner. Either way, he’d be a sound addition and help the Rams improve their pass defense.
Linval Joseph, DT, New York Giants
The Rams already have a very solid run defense (top-10 in 2013), but they need to get stronger and deeper on the defensive line. Joseph might be a little out of their price range and defensive tackle isn’t super high on the “needs” totem pole, but he’d be an awesome luxury to have. He’s only 26 and is extremely talented. I see Joseph more as a talented inside defender who would be an amazing get, rather than a position/player the Rams will actually attack in free agency.
The Rams are currently a lot better than even their fans probably think they are. Believe it or not, Sam Bradford actually is a franchise passer. He just needs to stay healthy. Beyond him, they have a very solid running back in Zac Stacy and explosive play-makers in Tavon Austin and Jared Cook. They also are stout on defense. All they have to do now is secure their offensive line and secondary, and they could suddenly make a real run at the NFC West. After all, it was only two years ago that the now Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks were in a very similar situation. If the Rams add 1-2 of the guys mentioned above and have a solid draft, they can hope for such great heights, as well.