Well, I've had to do a little re-write on this one. While deciding which position to take on with the 4th installment it looks as if the real Billy Devaney and I were on the same page. I was all set to discuss all things Center and then the Jason Brown news surfaced and then hit warp-speed all by mid-moring on Friday causing me to change gears.
So, we're going to take a look at the Defensive Line and see what type of options are avaiaible. I think it's pretty safe to say, we're looking for someone to stuff the run, right? We need a load in there. An immovable object. Someone who will free up our Middle Linebacker whether it's Witherspoon or Aaron Curry or whoever it is manning the middle. Bottom line: The Rams run defense was bad last season and we're here looking to improve it. Heck, it's been bad for a while but it's not as if the position has been totally ignored though. The team has routinely spent first round draft picks to shore up the position. But I guess that's why Mr. Devaney has been hired to oversee the process, right? Whatever the problem was (and I think we all kinda know what the problem was) hopefully we're on the right track of evaluation and we'll get this thing figured out sooner rather than later.
So, here we go taking a look at all things Defensive Line.
So, we need a road grader. That shouldn't be too tough to find, right? Uh.....well.....lets see what we have on the roster anyway.
- Adam Carriker - 6'6" 296 - Signed through 2011. Will make 720k in 2009. Many feel Carriker is another in a long list of DL busts the Rams have drafted over the years, yet many others feel Carriker is developing nicely and is part of the future foundation of the D-Line along with Chirs Long. Either way, Carriker is pretty cost efficient and should be able to flourish if paired with someone of the road grader persuasion.
- Clifton Ryan - 6'3" 310 - Signed through 2009 and will make 460k this season. Ryan is a guy who can be a useful part of a D-Line Rotation. He's not going to be a run stuffing stud muffin but he's not going to be a bust either. He's cheap and in the last year of his contract.
- Willie Williams - 6'4" 305 - Williams is nothing more than practice squad filler.
Pretty thin don't ya think? Gonna have to add to that unit. I'm sure we could re-sign La'Roi Glover for one more year. He's contemplating retirement but he would probably be willing to suit it up for one more year as a Ram. But do you want him back? Ummm. Not really, but we need depth. There are some options out there, but depending on how things shake out with Free Agency and the draft, La'Roi might be called on again as a 1 year depth stop gap.
Remember, as much as we'd like to, we can't fix everything this offseason. If simply cannot be done. There are going to be positions where we look to fill the spot for a year and then address it next offseason when we're making the final additions for our Super Bowl campaign. And that's not 100% sarcasm. Just think Miami Dolphins and it's entirely possible to make the necessary strides to get to the Big Game in two years even coming up from the bottom.
Is D-Line the position selected to suck it up for a year? I'm not sure, so let's take a look at what's available in the Free Agent market and we might get a better idea.
Note: Albert Haynesworth is a Redskin, so we can mark him off our fantasy wish list. (7y/$100M with $41M guaranteed and the deal could reach $115M)
- Jovan Haye - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 6'2" 285 - Haye is more of a pressure guy than a run stuffer so he's probably not what the Rams are looking for in a D-Lineman.
- Rocky Bernard - Seattle Seahwaks - 6'3" 308 - Rocky's not young and really isn't a top tier D-Tackle any more, but he is steady and pretty reliable. He would probably be better than Glover in a depth type of position but he'd probably cost more too.
- Dewayne Robertson - Denver Broncos - 6'1" 317 - Robertson is a fringe type guy with bum knees but can fill up the middle. The Titans and Panthers seem to have a bit of interest in Robertson. He was once considered to be a very promising D-Tackle in the mold of Warren Sapp but he struggled in the Jets 3-4 Defense and then just plain out struggled in whatever it was the Broncos put out there on defense last year. He's only 27. Could be a bit of a steal, if his knees hold up and fulfills his potential. Who knows....
- Chris Canty - Dallas Cowboys - 6'7" 300 - Canty's a big sumbitch. Period. Also, he's scheduled a visit with the Giants (after getting burned by the Redskins on a scheduled visit), and has visits lined up with the Titans, Seahawks and possibly the 49ers and Broncos. I seem to remember someone bringing up his name around here but I can't put my finger on it. Anyway, Canty's been cosidered both an interior lineman and a DE so I'm sure he's going to go where he can make the most out of his flexibilty (dollar-wise). Either way, he's probably going to make some coin from the Tittans after they lost Haynesworth.
- Shaun Cody - Detroit Lions - 6'4" 310 - Cody's another wide body who could definitely fill up some space. The Lions seem to have no interest in him so take that for what it's worth.
- Tank Johnson - Dallas Cowboys - 6'3" 300 - Tank is an enigma in my opinion. When he was with the Bears, he was a valuable piece of their playoff teams but he turned out to be a complete idiot who was removed from the team and surfaced in (surprise!) Dallas. He's kept his nose clean, but I think he's a walking time bomb. If the Rams are looking at talent, Tank has it. However, if the Rams are looking at character along with talent, you have to definitely think twice in regards to this guy. Also, while he kept his nose clean last year with the 'Boys, he didn't exactly excel on the field recording only 22 tackles. He's not an every down type of guy, but could be used effectively in a rotation which is pretty much the norm anymore anyway.
- John Thornton - Cincinnati Bengals - 6'3" 297 - Thonton could become a fan favorite around here since he himself is a blogger at AllProBlogger.com. On the field, it's a different story. Thornton is a good D-Lineman. He's experienced (read: old...35 years old) and is considered a great teammate and a great leader and mentor. He might be useful as a depth guy instead of Glover but he's not the immediate answer the Rams are looking for.
- Marcus Tubbs - Seattle Seahwaks - 6'3" 318 - Tubbs is possibly done at the age of 28. He was released from the SeaChickens last year in August after not being able to recover from knee surgeries. There's no info out there about him so he may have very well hung it up. Tubbs was once considered a pretty darn good football player and that's really the only reason I'm including him. I think he's done.
See, I just don't get any good feelings out of this free agent class and maybe that's a good thing. This either points us towards the draft or toward spending a high pick on a DL next offseason (which isn't the worst thing that could happen). So, let's look at the draft.
(Remember to click the player's name to read MockingDan's write up at MTD)
- B.J. Raji - Boston College - 6'2" 334 - Raji is considered by many to be the top NT/DL in the draft but he's not good enough to warrant spending the 2nd overall pick on. If the Rams wanted him, they'd have to trade down to get him. Raji kind of underwhelmed in the combine running a 5.13 40-yard dash and a 1.84 10-yard split. But then again, he weighs 334 pounds and really needs to just fill up the middle which he already does and by benching 225 pounds 33 times, he definitely has strength and he's a complete pain in the ass to block. It's also been noted the Bengals could take him at number 6.
- Peria Jerry - Mississippi - 6'2" 299 - Jerry made a lot of great plays last season but has also been incosistent over the course of his college career. Also, he's old. He's already 24 years old and that has some scouts taking careful looks at him since his development time is greatly reduced. Jerry recorded 16 tackles for loss along with 6 sacks and was conisedered a pocket collapser. He's also relatively healthy, so if concerns about his age effect things, Jerry could possibly be had by the Rams with their 2nd pick although he'll more than likely be gone in the late 1st round. Then again, some team that really wants to upgrade their D-Line and doesn't care about his age could jump on him higher in the first round. He actually might be a safer pick than Raji and if it weren't for him being 24, he'd definitly be predicted to go much higher.
(Let's take a timeout and a look at a great read by Mocking Dan comparing Raji and Jerry.)
- Ron Brace - Boston College - 6'3" 324 - Man, BC had some beef in the middle but just like his counterpart (Raji) he underimpressed at the combine. He ran a "5.4 something" (those are his words) 40-yard dash but put up 32 reps at 225 (6th overall D-Lineman) although Brace himself was unimpressed with both efforts. Brace could definitely be had with the Rams 2nd pick and could possibly come in and have an effect immediately.
- Evander Hood - Missouri - 6'4" 295 - Hood recorded 49 tackles (8 for loss), 5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles in 2007 for the Tigers but saw more attention in 2008 dropping his numbers to 23 tackles (2.5 for loss) and 1.5 sacks. Impressed at the Senior Bowl workouts in one-on-one drills and did well at the combine putting up 34 reps at 225. He's not overly athletic but has great technique and great size. He could even put on a few pounds and still be okey-dokey. In my opinion, if the Rams want to draft a D-Lineman who can step in and start next season, Hood is the guy they should target. They should be able to get him with their 2nd round pick.
- Sen'Derrick Marks - Auburn - 6'1" 297 - If the Rams miss on Hood, the next available DT will probably be Marks, but the drop off between the two (in my opinion) is considerable. Marks is pretty athletic but has underwhelmed everywhere the past year. He was consided to be out of shape at times last year even though he was part of a rotation at Tackle. Plus, he's probably not going to be getting much bigger and if he does, he'll be effecting his strength which is pursuit and speed.
- Jarron Gilbert - San Jose State - 6'6" 287 - Has become a YouTube sensation by jumping out of a pool. That's right...OUT of a pool. Is it real? Who knows. He says it is and it looks legit. Gilbert is considered a potential DE in a 3-4 scheme. He's athletic and is explosive but lacks speed, overall strength, and size (although I guess it's possible he could put on to his 6'6" frame). Probably will go in the 2nd round.
- Fili Moala - USC - 6'5" 295 - Here's the guy I'd look to for the Rams if they miss on Hood. He's big and could definitely put on some more weight. He's also considered to be more of a run stopper than an outside rusher. He impressed at the Senior Bowl workout showing better quickness than many were giving him credit for. Had a good senior season recording 30 tackles (10 for loss) and 4.5 sacks. He could possibly be had by the Rams with their 3rd Round pick due to the depth of the position in front of him.
- Chris Baker - Hampton - 6'2" 326 - Here's a guy that may be flying a little under some radars. He got kicked out of Penn State after getting into a fight, but he says it was a little overblown and agreed to a "plea agreement" in the incident since he didn't want to stress his family's financial situation with a trial. Outside of the "legal" issue, there's not much about Baker that isn't a little confusing. He's declaring for the draft after his junior season and it's a little foggy how that came about. He was apparently advised to contact the NFL PA about his draft prospects but when he called them, he just said he was declaring himself eliglble for the draft and never asked about his prospects. Baker had a great year last year at Hampton recording 69 tackles (16.5 forl loss) and 8.5 sacks (but it was at Hampton). He's been projected all over the draft board but a team willing to take a chance on a guy with a really high ceiling (and a really low basement) could take a flier on him in the 3rd round or thereabouts. I don't think it'll be the Rams.
- Sammie Lee Hill - Stillman - 6'4" 329 - He's a beast, but really raw (27 reps at 225). He is considered a bull-rusher and that's about it, however scouts were impressed with his coachabiltiy at the East-West Shrine Game practices after he started to show a pretty good spin move. Should go in the later rounds and has pretty good upside although he won't be starting or seeing a whole lot of playing time next year.
- Dorell Scott - Clemson - 6'4" 320 - Is considered big but a tad on the flabby side. He put up 29 reps at 225 at the combine and I've read he ran a 4.97 40-yard. Could go anywhere from the late 3rd round on down.
- Vance Walker - Georgia Tech - 6'2" 293 - Will need to put on some more weight to be considered a run-stuffer. Has a good burst which will intrigue some teams but not before the 4th round.
- Alex Magee - Purdue - 6'4" 295 - Moved outside his senior season and did well for the Boilermakers. Has seen his stock rise which probably puts him in the 4th round. Is considered to be "cat-quick" and has good strength (30 reps at 225) to go along with good size that could probably hold some more weight. The problem withh Magee is he's looked at as more of at rusher than a run-stuffer. He's got the size but can he stuff the middle and be happy about it?
- Ricky Jean-Francois - LSU - 6'3" 281 - Talk about another enigma. There are few that have a handle on what Jean-Francois is and what he'll be. He's undersized to play the middle but he's a freak of nature athletically. He was suspened (or simply left LSU) after his junior season and is now forgoeing his senior season to enter the draft. Oh, and he's also had injury issues and no one really knows if he's a D-lineman or an end since he doesn't project to either position all that well (size inside vs quickness outside). Bottom line on Jean-Francios: some team is going to draft this guy and it'll probably be too high. I just hope it's not the Rams.
- MItch King - Iowa - 6'3" 280 - He's projected as a 3-4th rounder but his size (275-280 lbs) is a major concern. He could put on some weight, but at this point there are much better options for the Rams that fit their needs immediately. (23 reps at 225).
- Corvey Irvin - Georgia - 6'4" 286 - I think we're starting to see a trend here. He just doesn't fit the run-stuffer mold the Rams so desperately need. So we'll probably pass.
- Terrence Taylor - Michigan - 6'0" 319 - Was once consided a 1st round talent but had a less-than-mediocre 2008 season and performed poorly at the combine although he did put up 37 reps at 225 which was the 2nd most of anyone at the combine. He is considered a run-stopper. Someone might take a flier on him real early, but there's a good shot he get forgotten about and a team could find a decent steal in the later rounds.
- Terrence Knighton - Temple - 6'3" 321 - Knighton's stock is beginning to rise a bit making him a possible late round draft selection. He was a relative unknown playing at Temple but worked his way into a very late Combine invite. The guy is a hard worker, has great size, and flat out makes great plays. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say he could be a steal of the draft.
(also, check out Mocking Dan's Defensive Lineman rankings)
Well, I have to say, after the downer the Free Agent list put me into, I'm in much better spirits after looking over the Draft. While Raji and Jerry are far and away the best D-Linemen in the draft it probably doesn't make sense for the Rams to trade down to get him when I think there are impact players who can be had in the 2nd, 3rd, and maybe even the 4th round. I really like Evander Hood from Missouri if the Rams want a good, safe pick. But they could always wait and double up with a safe pick followed by a high risk/high reward combo later in the draft. A guy like Sammie Lee Hill could fit this mold, but then again some one might just take a flier on him earlier than maybe they should. I also like Terrence Knighton as a possible late round sleeper pick. Physically, he's got everything the Rams are looking for in a D-Lineman. He might not stick as a run stuffer but he could have a long, solid career in the NFL as a defensive lineman plus, he's got a great attitude and work ethic.
So, there's your look at the D-Linemem. The Rams probably need to add 2 linemen (at a minimum) and while I'm not excited about the prospects in Free Agency, I do like the depth the draft lends us to fill those needs with quality as well as quantity.