Yeah, it's free agency week, and that gives us lots to talk about. After watching two seasons of Rams football that included a total of 5 wins, an off-season with a new coach and finally a got-their-s@#t-together front office is where the fun begins. Free agency is for dreamers; it has to be, because the reality of it is that the headline players are too expensive for most teams to pursue more than one, no matter how many holes they have to fill. One position that the Rams will be looking to fill through free agency is center, and atop the list is Baltimore's Jason Brown, assuming he doesn't re-sign. Is this a realistic possibility for the Rams?
There are a couple of factors to consider, first and foremost is price. Brown's agent told the Baltimore Sun that he expects Brown to be paid like a gaurd, not a center.
Whether he plays center for the Ravens or guard for another team in the NFL, he's an offensive lineman and he's going to be paid as an offensive lineman. I don't think he has to be categorized.
When you have that versatility, you should get rewarded for it, and not which is the lower of the two.
The difference? About $2 million. You want a comparison. Let's start with last year's big free agent fish on the o-line: Alan Faneca. The Jets gave the seven-time Pro Bowl gaurd a five-year, $40 million deal with $21 million in guaranteed money. Faneca counted for $5.6 million against the cap in '08 and will count $8 million this year. That's a lotta dough.
Now, Faneca came with an impressive resume, so maybe a more apt comparison is our own Jacob Bell. The underweight guard (how were we to know?) signed a six-year, $36 million deal with $13 million in guaranteed money. Bell's cap value last year was $3.1 million and over $5 million this year. It's hard to say exactly what kind of deal Brown will get, but with several teams interested in his services, including the Miami Dolphins with $24 million in cap space, the bidding could put his contract somewhere between the Bell and Faneca deals. For the Ravens, Brown's price tag forces them to choose between keeping him or LB Bart Scott, who'd command even bigger dollars in free agency.
And that's the other big factor in chasing Brown, making the Rams more appealing than the other potential suitors. Yes, the Rams have made all the right moves to take the franchise in a new direction, but they're still a little farther away from being a legit Super Bowl contender than some of the others who'll be bidding on Brown's services. Remember, the Dolphins were an 11 win team last season, in a division where New England is suddenly vulnerable.
So what are the Rams chances? That's not easy to say. They'll have to weight the cost/benefit of signing Brown, if they chase him, versus the money they need to fill other areas of need. It's not hopeless, not at all, but if I had to rank the likelihood of where Brown would sign, I'd say Miami is a more likely destination than St. Louis.