Well, the good folks who run this fine St. Louis Rams blog have asked me to put together a series, a positional breakdown if you will, to help put a lot of the things we're talking about (and hopefully, some new interesting information) into an easily accessed format.
With this series, I'm going to be assuming the role of Billy Devaney (with an occasional visit from Kevin Demoff). I will take a look at what we've got at each position and what options we have going forward, looking at both free agency and the draft.
Originally, I felt I'd hit all positions since there really isn't one area that doesn't need to be re-worked or re-freshed in some sort of capacity, but after re-thinking that conclusion I discovered two gentlemen I need to thank for saving me a bit of work.
Fellow TSTers, I give you Donnie Jones and Josh Brown. I think we can all agree the kicking department is pretty well set. I guess we can't say the Linehan/Zigmunt beast wasn't a total failure..........
Anyway, enough of this intro. To begin this quest, I've decided to "tackle" the position I believe the majority of us has accepted as the main focus of the offseason. So here goes....
Here at TST we've gone over Offensive Tackle ad nauseum, but I'm starting here anyway. It's probably the Rams most pressing need, so I figure it's a logical jumping off point. This past year, we saw what I felt was acceptable Tackle play, but as we all know, there's a 500 pound gorilla in the room and his name is Orlando Pace.
Pace can't play much longer, right? He's been hurt the last couple of years and he's really getting up there in age, plus the only viable option we realistically have to replace him with is probably Alex Barron and I don't think anyone is excited to hear that. Then again, if memory serves me correctly, when he has had to fill in for Pace in the past, he wasn't a complete disaster. I think most of us closed our eyes when they moved Barron over, but he seemed to hold his own. He wasn't the second coming of anything spectactular, but he wasn't a total disaster either. Either way, it doesn't matter since he's not our Left Tackle of the future so let's take a look at the Tackles we currently have on the roster.
- Orlando Pace - Signed through 2011 - 2009 salary $5.975M - Cap hit $6.429
- Alex Barron - Through 2010 - 2009 salary $1.232M - Cap hit $1.1M
- John Greco - Through 2010 - 2009 salary $385k - Cap hit $429k
The Rams also have 2 free agents who were on the roster last year in Adam Goldberg and Anthony Davis. Davis never saw the field with the Rams.
As was pointed out today, cutting Pace would actually save the team roughly 6 Million dollars. Honestly, I don't quite understand how this figure was calculated. I'm still ironing this out, but by my calculations, Pace will count 8.115M in cap money next year and if he's cut will cost 6.42M. So the way I see it, it would save 1.695M and if cut AFTER June 1, the team could actually save an extra 4.28 which would be a net savings of 5.975M. This sounds completely opposite of what was reported today, and to be quite frank, that tidbit of information has sent me into a tailspin of confusion. I'm currently awaiting clarification, but in the meanwhile am going ahead with this article.
Either way, there's a chance we could save $6M by cutting Pace this offseason.
But, is it worth it?
Pace is a proven performer. If he's healthy, we really don't have to worry about him and if he's gone we've got to replace him. Barron can get by, but if you do cut Pace you better not miss in the draft or in picking his replacement.
So, let's talk about a Pace replacement. The first place I'll look is the Free Agency market. Is it feasable? Probably not, but let's see what's out there.
- Jordan Gross - Carolina Panthers - apparently both he and the Panthers are very interested in keeping him in Carolina so he's probably not an option.
- Mark Tausher - Green Bay Packers - Mark had a Cap Charge of $6.271M last season. He's also recovering from his 2nd ACL tear at the age of 32 so a possible move to guard is a strong possibility for Tausher.
- Marvel Smith - Pittsburgh Steelers - Marvel was put on the IR last season with back problems. Also, he had a Cap Charge of $6.645 last season. He's 30 years old, but that back injury probably makes him closer to 35.
- Stacy Andrews - Cincinnati Bengals - Is rehabbing a torn ACL and MCL and is apparently looking to resign with Cincy.
- Khalif Barnes - Jacksonville Jaguars - The Jags have no interest in bringing him back but he was considered one of the worst Offensive Tackles in the game last season.
- Vernon Carey - Miami Dolphins - Apparently the Dolphins have placed a high prioity on re-signing Carey.
- George Foster - Detroit Lions - Lost his job to a rookie (Gosder Cherilus) and is an offsides machine.
- Jon Runyan - Philadelphia Eagles - just had surgery to repair a microfracture. Expected to be out 4 to 6 months. He's 35 years old.
- Tra Thomas - Philadelphia Eagles - He's out of their plans but is 34 years old.
And that's it. See anything you like as reliable as Pace and actually takes advantage of the cap savings we'll get by cutting him? Tra Thomas? Maybe. Other than him, I just don't see a viable option and there's definitely nothing available that would be consiedered an asset for the future.
Frankly, teams don't let good tackles walk. You have to draft them, which brings us to the draft.
We all know the usual suspects which were covered by VanRam right here and there's been so much talk about who is the best, that I can't make heads or tails of it either. Personally, I am liking Andre Smith and Oher, but can you really say they're better than Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe?
Of course, if you do choose to go another route with the first pick, you might have these guys available in the second or third round.
- William Beatty - Connecticut - 6'6" 300 - Has been shooting up the draft boards due to his performance at the Senior Bowl. Is athletic. Might have moved up into the 1st round.
- Troy Kropog - Tulane - 6'6" 292 - Was a disappointment at the Senior Bowl. Scouts feel he has the size to play tackle in the NFL, but it might take a long time to realize his potential.
- Phil Loadholt - Oklahoma - 6'8" 337 - Huge. And is naturally athletic being a state champion discus thrower and an all-state basketball player in high school.
- Fenuki Tupou - Oregon - 6'6" 322 - Neither impressed nor disappointed at the Senior Bowl.
- Jamon Meredith - South Carolina - 6'5" 301 - Very durable starting 25 consecutive games at South Carolina. Opened eyes at East-West Shrine Game with his strong punch and good footwork.
- Jason Watkins - Florida - 6'6" 310 - Can play either left or right.
(Player Info from NFL Draft Scout)
Personally, I'd keep Pace for one more year and draft a lineman with the first pick. I just don't see anything that entices me in free agency. Plus, most of those guys are either old, hurt, bad, or all three and once you sign them what you're left with is a substandard version of Orlando Pace. The only guy that might come at some type of discount is Tra Thomas.
Then again, how good is John Greco? He's probably more of a right tackle so having him compete with Barron this offseason is probably in the plans. What would a tackle combo of John Greco paired with Smith/Smith/Monroe/Oher look going into 2010? Pretty nice, in my humble opinion.
So, let me know what you think.