Editor’s note: This is a guess post from Kevin Roberts of Fantasy Football Overdose. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more information on St. Louis Rams stats, news and rumors – visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
The St. Louis Rams lost quarterback Sam Bradford near mid-season in 2013 and were fully expected to cave like any other team losing their franchise quarterback would. They didn’t.
Instead, the Rams discovered a gem in undrafted rookie running back Zac Stacy and backup quarterback Kellen Clemens did just enough to help St. Louis remain highly competitive. An elite pass-rush and some timely big plays from rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin helped, too, while also providing some optimism for the Rams going forward.
There is quite a bit of optimism, actually, as the Rams had easily one of the best overall defenses for much of the season and have already made an effort to improve their biggest weakness on that side of the ball – their pass defense – by cutting underperforming corner, Cortland Finnegan.
With Sam Bradford due back, there’s reason to believe a now balanced Rams offense should be at it’s best since the team drafted Bradford, while the addition of a key wide receiver and a few upgrades on defense could suddenly vault the Rams into playoff conversations.
It certainly won’t be easy to make the leap in the same division that boasts the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks and the equally tough San Francisco 49ers. However, after playing the Seahawks to the final second at home in 2013 (without Bradford, mind you), the Rams know they’re not as far away as some suspect.
To take that next step, however, they need to keep making the right moves. To help track and assess how they’re doing, we’re taking a look at what they’ve done or left undone in free agency so far. The open market burst open earlier this week, so let’s see how the Rams have made some noise:
The Rams have been very quiet in free agency, only watching some of their guys walk and making some key re-signings. They could still be in play for a safety or wide receiver in the second or third wave, but don’t appear to be willing to fork over the big bucks to upgrade at those spots or elsewhere at the moment.
Kellen Clemens (Quarterback)
This is only a key loss because Clemens played a lot in 2013 and the Rams’ current starter isn’t even 100%. In every other way possible, this is actually good news. Clemens knows the system and on paper didn’t do as horribly as expected last year, but he’s not the greatest backup and he’s an awful starter. Whether or not they still view Bradford as their franchise passer, the Rams sorely need to address the quarterback position. They probably won’t sign someone off the streets at this point, but drafting a young passer that can at the very worst be molded into a solid backup is a necessary move. Alabama’s A.J. McCarron is just one passing prospect that should be an excellent backup and also has starter potential.
Chris Williams (Offensive Guard)
Williams isn’t a horrible loss either, but it’s a key loss based solely on depth. Williams was still a starter at guard in 2013, but needed to be upgraded upon one way or another, regardless. St. Louis would have gladly brought him back to compete and be a solid depth piece at the very worst, but Buffalo paid him too much ($5.5 million guaranteed).
This works out fine for the Rams, however, as he goes to the Bills and now they can address the position elsewhere. They’ll likely try to promote from within, but should definitely add a guard to the mix in the draft, along with a tackle.
Keeping the Faith
Rodger Saffold (Offensive Tackle)
Saffold originally was set to bolt for big bucks in Oakland with the Raiders, but their team doctors were concerned about a shoulder injury and the Raiders backed out of the deal. Saffold ended up taking less money in St. Louis, but the Rams still made him a rich man and brought back one of the best tackles in the game. St. Louis wasn’t a lock to keep him, but despite a checkered injury history, he’s a major re-signing.
Jo-lonn Dunbar (Linebacker)
Dunbar was not great on the strongside last year, yet the Rams brought him back, anyways. Hopefully they’ll also draft another linebacker in the middle rounds to compete with him. St. Louis can’t expect to take the next step on defense with him as a starter.
GM Les Snead has remained adamant that the Rams already have the wide receivers they need to get the job done, despite experts everywhere suggesting they still don’t have a true number one wide receiver. Snead is likely just protecting himself and the Rams here, though, as St. Louis is almost surely going to draft a big name wide receiver with one of their two first round pick. They already let the top receivers in free agency (Eric Decker and Hakeem Nicks) go elsewhere and don’t appear to be in play for the top remaining option (Julian Edelman). Clearly not players on the open market at wide receiver, look for the Rams to go against their current word and grab a potential number one target in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
While I don’t see the Rams spending on a receiver at this point in free agency, grabbing a competent backup quarterback and some guard depth would be a good idea. They should still draft a quarterback to groom at some point, but solid veterans like Shaun Hill, Jason Campbell, Luke McCown, Matt Flynn and Colt McCoy are all still available. They would all be major upgrades over the departed Clemens.
Other players the Rams could take a look at as free agency winds down: Daryn Colledge (Guard), Major Wright (Safety) and Walter Thurmond III (Cornerback).
Colledge is actually a decent guard but was cut by the Arizona Cardinals for cap relief. St. Louis could upgrade over the now gone Chris Williams by adding Colledge. Wright is just one of the many solid safeties left on the open market and at 26 is young enough for the Rams to coach up in their system. Thurmond III was actually excellent in Seattle, but is a minor risk due to NFL violations. All three of these guys would be cheap, low-risk additions and would fill needs.
Tags: St. Louis Rams