The day has finally come. After countless unnecessary roughness penalties and a slew of blown coverages, it’s official: cornerback Cortland Finnegan has been released by the Rams. He announced his release at approximately 3 p.m. via Twitter, thanking Head Coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams for the opportunity.
When Finnegan first came to St. Louis, fans knew he was a physical corner with a questionable past. Despite this, we generally had some faith in his talents and we welcomed the tenacity he brought to the Rams defense. He did well in the 2012 season, picking off three passes, piled up 101 combined tackles, and adding a forced fumble and a defensive touchdown.
His production dropped last season, due in part to being benched after a few rough games and then battling injuries. When healthy, he was a liability in the secondary, and soon opposing teams were abusing him in the slot. The Rams were tied for the worst opposing completion percentage last season (with the Oakland Raiders), allowing a staggering 68.1 percentage success rate. The secondary also had the highest average yardage allowed per completion, surrendering 8.1 per catch.
It certainly appears as though Finnegan’s best days are behind him, and the Rams will be better off taking a corner in the early rounds of this year’s draft. From what cornerback Brandon McGee demonstrated last season, St. Louis needs someone to defend the slot behind Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson. Now the question becomes, which position is a greater need: cornerback or safety?
The Rams clearly need both. The only deep secondary player who isn’t going anywhere is safety T.J. McDonald. If need be, safety Rodney McLeod can move to corner, filling the void Finnegan created after his departure. Safety Darian Stewart may not be coming back, so that leaves a gaping hole next to McDonald. If that is the case, look for the Rams to take a safety if one of the top two prospects falls to their second pick at number 13 – those two being Calvin Pryor out of Louisville and Hasean Clinton-Dix from Alabama.
If McLeod stays at safety, the Rams would be wise to take a corner early. If they decide to take one with their second pick, they could have their choice of Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert – depending on who fits best in Gregg Williams’ defense.
Players will undoubtably shuffle around in the secondary this offseason and it is almost a certainty that the front office will take at least one corner and one safety in May’s draft. We will just have to wait and see how GM Les Snead and Fisher patch together the secondary.