It was “Breaking News” all over the internet last night that the New York Jets had traded RT/TE Wayne Hunter to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for RTJason Smith. A ton of stories have circulated to how the trade would or wouldn’t improve the Rams offensive line. Some speak to the fact that Wayne Hunter is the reincarnation of Alex Barron in terms of false start penalties, including Jim Thomas, who was tweeting out the comparison last night. Others claim that a change of scenery may be beneficial for both players, allowing a “fresh start” in their respective new cities. Some claim that Wayne Hunter is a better fit for the Schottenhiemer offensive, especially with Hunter having extensive experience and having the ability to play the “jumbo tight end.” Other site the fact that the trade is beneficial to the Rams because they are clearing up cap space this, and the following, season, with Hunter expected to make only $2.4M in comparison to Jason Smith at $4.0M, even after Smith renegotiated his contract during the off season. My belief is that it is something else all together. Not to say that all of those suggestions did not play a particular role, but I believe there a simpler explanation for the trade.
For the St. Louis Rams, 2012 marks a new regime. Not just a typical “regime” change like the term we have seen thrown around with the hiring of every new coach over the past decade; a real regime change. Stan “the Man” Kroenke cleaned out the front office, bringing in Les Snead and a host of other rising talent. The Rams won the Battle of the Fisher in the off season, marking the first hiring of a head coach who has actually had experience at the head coaching position. Starting fresh on ALL fronts is the idea here, to get rid of all the hindering relics of the past regimes’ doing and begin with a clean slate, filled with the established pillars (Steven Jackson, Chris Long, Sam Bradford, James Laurinaitis) and new, young talented players. Inevitably that means letting go of a number of players who were brought in my previous coaches, typcially players drafted for a specific reason or for a specific system by that particular coach. Some of that waste had been allowed to stay around, probably as a result of lack of experience as a head coach or unwillingness to admit a mistake with such a high draft choice. With Jeff Fisher, that has come to an end. With Jason Smith gone, the Rams can finally look towards the future without having a constant negative reminder of the past, a reminder of failure, a reminder of a losing mindset that has plagued the Rams for nearly a decade.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, here is a list of the handful of players left over from Jason Smith’s rookie season that are still on the Rams roster (* indicates that the player was a rookie):
RB Steven Jackson
WR Danny Amendola
*WR Brandon Gibson
DE Chris Long
*DT Darrell Scott
*MLB James Laurinaitis
*CB Bradley Fletcher
S Craig Dahl
Aside from Craig Dahl and Brandon Gibson, who may or may not make the 2012 roster, the only players left from the Jason Smith era are either pillars of the Rams offense and defense, or key rotational players on defensive line or secondary. Smith was the last of the cancerous group of players draining the life from the St. Louis Rams turnaround. Now it is truly the start of a new era!