Finally the smell of St. Louis Rams football is back in the air as OTA’s are getting under way. The Rams have had a pretty good offseason up to this point and will hope to build on it. After back to back seven win seasons, fans will be looking to improve on that in 2014.
The offseason began in free agency for the Rams, and after the last two years in which the Rams were big names in free agency, this year was much different. The Rams released both Harvey Dahl and Cortland Finnegan who were both aging veterans that were simply getting outmatched.
With those losses the Rams would need to solidify the backup quarterback position and add depth on the offensive line and in the secondary
To fill those needs, many speculated that the Rams might go after Alterraun Verner the former Titans cornerback who excelled with Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams coaching him, or Jairus Byrd the ball-hawking safety out of Buffalo.
The Rams avoided the mistake that they had made the past two years all together and avoided bringing in those big names, instead the Rams put their focus on retaining Rodger Saffold. That almost fell through however as Saffold signed with the Raiders, but the deal fell through at the last-minute allowing the Rams to capitalize on the Raiders’ mistake.
The Rams also retained linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, signed veteran quarterback Shaun Hill, and then signed arguably the team’s biggest free agent signing, Kenny Britt. Britt has potential to be a number one guy, but with off the field issues, he has yet to hit the potential that many expected him to be at on a consistent basis.
With free agency in the books the St. Louis Rams still had serious questions in the secondary and on the offensive line. Who was going to be the team’s other guard? Who would fill the hole at safety? It seemed as if free agency brought on more questions than answers.
The bright side to free agency was that the Rams didn’t go out and overpay a guy that may not perform at the level that they expect him to. The Rams also re-signed their biggest free agent, and then signed a few low-risk, high reward type players. With 12 picks in the draft, including two in the top 15, the Rams seemed poised to fill their remaining holes.
As the draft neared, many expected the Rams to trade away the number two overall pick in order to pick up even more selections in the draft. That was not the case however, as the Rams made a statement and stayed put. The Rams drafted the best run-blocking tackle in the draft in Auburn’s Greg Robinson, thus breaking the streak of Jeff Fisher not ever taking an offensive lineman in the first round.
Robinson will most likely start at guard for the Rams, filling the last hole on the offensive line. The Rams would just need to add some depth which they could do later in the draft.
At the 13th overall pick, the Rams arguably got the biggest steal in the first round when Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald fell to them. Although the Rams needed a safety, and badly, they instead took the best player available and gave themselves arguably the best defensive line in football.
The Rams now have quite a rotation on a defensive line that includes four first round picks. Donald lead the NCAA in tackles for loss last season and the Rams hope he can help resurrect the fearsome foursome defensive lines of the 60′s and 70′s.
After day one, the Rams had a pretty solid draft that could only get better. In the second round the Rams traded up and added versatility to the secondary by adding Lamarcus Joyner out of Florida State.
Joyner has the ability to play the nickel corner spot as well as move back and play safety if needed. The Rams then followed up the Joyner pick by surprisingly adding running back Tre Mason. Mason has been getting Bo Jackson comparisons and really carried the Auburn offense to the national championship game last season.
With Mason, the Rams will have a pretty good two-back system as they already have Zac Stacy who nearly rushed for 1,000 yards in only 12 games in 2013.
On day three the Rams notably added a promising safety in Maurice Alexander, a depth corner in E.J. Gaines, a young quarterback to develop in Garrett Gilbert, and then to wrap things up, they made history by selecting the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL in Michael Sam.
2. OL Greg Robinson
13. DT Aaron Donald
41. DB Lamarcus Joyner
75. RB Tre Mason
110. S Maurice Alexander
188. CB E.J. Gaines
214. QB Garrett Gilbert
226. T Mitchell Van Dyk
241. S Christian Bryant
249. DL Michael Sam
250. C Demetrius Rhaney
Many experts gave the Rams a pretty high-grade in the draft and listed them in the top five best draft of 2014. The teams filled the holes that they needed to fill with some young promising players. They also added depth which is a sign that this team is headed in the right direction
For the Rams, the offseason didn’t stop at the draft. After drafting Tre Mason, the Rams released promising running back Daryl Richardson who just couldn’t get the job done last season with the pressure of filling in the empty shoes of Steven Jackson. The Rams then added depth on the offensive line by adding veteran pro bowl guard Davin Joseph as well as 16 undrafted free agent rookies that included:
The Rams added a lot of pieces to the roster going into OTA’s and training camp, it will be interesting to see who makes the final 53. It sure looks like the Rams made a strong effort this offseason to get over the hump and get their first winning record since 2003 when the team went 12-4. The only thing going against the Rams is that they play in the NFC West and once again have a difficult schedule. Only time will tell of the Rams have what it takes to defy the odds.