Looking at the cost of the Rams restricted free agents

The National Football Post has the tender amounts for 2009 restricted free agents. This has some implications for the Rams, who have three players of interest that are restricted free agents  - DE Victor Adeyanju, OL Richie Incognito, and OL Mark Setterstrom. But, before looking at the implications of restricted free agency for the Rams, here's a brief explanation of how restricted free agency works.

Restricted free agents are players whose contracts have expired with three accrued seasons of play in the league or fewer than four seasons with a salary cap in place (with a few exceptions, like the practice squad, on the PUP list with a non-football injury, etc.). Teams guarantee themselves first right of refusal by making a contract offer to that player at one of the designated levels, or 110% of a players' salary for the last year, whichever amount it more. If teams offer a tender to a RFA and  the RFA accepts an offer from another team, the team losing the RFA receives compensation at whatever level they tendered an offer to the player. The deadline to make tenders to RFAs is February 26.

The NFL's contract rules are the simplest things in the world, and the coming uncapped year in 2010 will really make it difficult. Anyway, on with the Rams. Of the three players mentioned above - Adeyanju, Incognito and Setterstrom - none had a cap value exceeding $597K. That was Richie Incognito's cap value. And I doubt any players are tendered an offer at the highest level - 1st and 3rd round compensation, $2.792 million salary. Each of those guys are valuable to the team, but don't merit that price tag. The smallest tender the Rams could make is for $1.01 million, and compensation in the form of a pick from the round where the player was drafted originally.

DE Victor Adeyanju

A run stopping specialist who emerged as a regular contributing member of the Rams DE rotation, Adeyanju has value. He really came into his own last season, picking up a career high two sacks and 40 tackles. It's tough to gauge how fits into the plans for the 2009 defense, especially with new head coach Steve Spagnuolo likely to be heavily involved in shaping it. However, it's not a stretch to think the Rams would hang onto a useful young player. If the Rams hang onto Leonard Little, they'll need Adeyanju to rotate in at DE. If they part ways with Little, they'll need Adeyanju to play an expanded role.

But what kind of tender do you offer? Adeyanju was drafted in the 4th round in 2006. Given the team's needs on defense, it's probably worth making him at least a second round tender offer worth $1.545 million. If they opt for a higher tender, they'll have to ask whether or not they can find someone as good and cheaper in free agency or somewhere in the third round or beyond in the draft that can contribute right away.

OL Richie Incognito

Oh man, here we are again with Incognito. Incognito is a good lineman, though his play really suffered last season largely because of his mental lapses and just dumb moves. He was a third round pick in 2005. An offer at that level gives the Rams a capable starter (albeit in need of some tough love occasionally) for a million bucks. If he signs elsewhere, the Rams get a valuable third round pick. A couple questions to ask: how good/ready is John Greco? Roy Schuening? And could Incognito be used at C again, a position where he had some solid play in 2006? Given the need for depth along the line, I don't see how the Rams could pass on tendering Incognito an offer at that level. Depending on their other moves and the impact on the cap, he's arguably worth a second round tender.

OL Mark Setterstrom

Setterstrom made an impact when injuries forced him into a starting role midway through the 2006 season. He began the 2007 season as the Rams starting left guard, but was placed on IR after injuring his knee (ACL) in week 3. Setts was ready to compete for a starting job last summer, but fractured his patella in mid-August, ending, once again, his season early and leaving the Rams in a lurch for depth on the o-line. So before we even ask if he's worth a tender, we have to ask if can even play this season after such a serious injury. In his online chat at STLToday.com yesterday, Rams beat writer Jim Thomas told one questioner that he had heard Setterstrom's rehab was "on schedule" and the lineman should be ready for training camp. Obviously, Thomas has the sources, but I'll believe it when I see it. That's no small injury, especially for a guy who played just 3 games in the last two seasons. So what about the tender? When healthy Setterstrom is worth more than a 7th round pick (where he was originally drafted in 2006), but a million bucks for a question mark is a tough call, even more so if they tendered an offer at the second round level.

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