Well, thankfully the number of real areas of need on this team are starting to shrink. Granted, we still have a lot out there but I think we can all be happy with the additions at Center and Strong Safety.
Here at BBD, we've covered Offensive Tackle, Middle Linebacker, Strong Safety, Defensive Line, and Wide Receiver and for now I'm putting Center on the back burner since I don't feel it to be an area of need anymore. As it stands, we still have a few areas that haven't been covered that you can expect to see the team make an effort to improve either though the draft, through free agency, or by adding players that will be cut anytime between now and training camp.
Of those positions, I believe the area in need of most improvement is Cornerback. Now, the team did just ink Ron Bartell a little while back, unfortunately that's just not going to cut it. We all like Bartell (although he gives me headaches from time to time) and we all liked the signing but I think it's safe to say our Cornerback unit is no better (if not worse) now than our Wide Reciever unit . There's just no depth there whatsoever.
So, take a jump at the break and we'll discuss all things Rams Cornerbacks.
(Note: this post will not be showing up in the FanPost section. I have a feeling this position will create a lot of conversation so go ahead and "rec" it which I think will cause it to end up in the "Recommended Fanposts" section.)
Alright, we're going to have to add some depth here. Really, with the inexplicable handling of Fakhir Brown by the previous regime, we're left with one experienced and somewhat accomplished Cornerback in Bartell. We've got some other guys who have seen the field, but with mixed results so with that being said, let's take a look at the roster.
- Ron Bartell - 6'1" 205 - Signed through 2012 - Bartell, as most of us should be aware, just recently re-upped with the Rams signing a 4 year contract worth $25M ($28 with incentives) and will be paid $4.1M in 2009 which is guranteed. Overall, the Rams paid more than they would have had to if someone had vision enough to lock Bartell up for a few years last off season, but that didn't happen. All things considered though, this is actually a fairly team friendly contract compared to what other Cornerbacks were getting and Bartell was possibly the best CB on the market at the time. Other than the contract stuff, Bartell is a fairly solid cornerback (he's the best on this team by miles) and lends stability and experience to a unit that desperately needs some help.
Jonathan Wade - 5'10" 195 - Signed through 2009 - Wade played in all 16 games last season (did you notice?) recording 23 tackles (3 solo) and one INT. (Note: Wade's played in every game for the Rams since being drafted - 32 of 32 games) Wade can play a little but should not be listed anywhere higher than number 3 on your depth chart. He'll make $460K this season. He's also young (24 years old) so maybe we can see some improvement out of him this year although I doubt his ceiling is all that high.
- Tye Hill - 5'10" 185 - Signed through 2010 - Hill was considered something coming out of college but has done absolutely squat since turning pro. With his athletic ability he was looked at as a potential lock down corner but has shown no real ability to do that at all. Another bust of the former regime? Well, lets just say he has been so far. Maybe Spags and his merry men can find something in him and turn Hill into a decent Nickle back or something. If not, he's sure to be gone after this season.
- Quincy Butler (6'1" 190), Justin King (6'" 186), David Roach (6'2" 215) - Out of these guys, you might want to keep an eye on King. He left college early last year and then got hurt in August which ended his season (torn ligament in big toe). In college he could burn and ran a 4.31 40-yard but he did struggle with covering Big Ten receivers (who aren't necessarily know to be the greatest WRs in college football). Hopefully, Spags can discover something in him since this team is desperate for another capable body back there.
And that's it. Pretty thin. Possibly the team will re-sign Jason Craft who was signed to the roster back in late September when Scott Linehan cut Fakhir Brown and Tye Hill was benched/injured (still banging my head against the desk). Craft isn't the best CB in the league, heck he wasn't the best CB on the Rams last year (and the competition wasn't stiff), but he was steady for the most part and provides a calming force out there and one I'd prefer to see as opposed to Wade, Hill, or King. Craft ended the season playing 13 games for the Rams (1 for the Saints) and recorded 63 tackles (Rams only) with 58 solo, 1 INT, forced 2 fumbles and recovered 3. All in all, Craft had a bit of a resurgence with the Rams.
Hopefully (I can't really believe I'm saying that) the Rams re-sign Jason Craft. Well, that's my opinion right now and I reserve the right to change my mind any time I feel fit. Maybe after I look at the rest of the free agent crop I'll feel compelled? Let's see what's out there.
- Daven Holly - Cleveland Browns - 5'10" 185 - Yup. I'm starting this list with Daven Holly. Holly was injured the entire 2008 season after signing with the Browns. They've since let him try to find a new employer. Tampa Bay seems to be somewhat interested in him, and he is only 26 years old and put up decent numbers in his first couple of seasons (5 INTs in 2006, 0 in 2007). The problem is, he appears to be exactly what the Rams have a lot of (5'10", 185, fast, hurt, underachiever) so do we really want or need another? Probably not. Man, Jason Craft is looking real good right now, isn't he?
- R.W. McQuarters - New York Giants - 5'10" 194 - Other than my obsession with wanting to go into business with R-dub and open a chain of sports bar restaurants (couldn't you hear yourself saying, "hey, let's all head down to R.W. McQuarters' for 25 cent wings and $3 pints"? C'mon.....you know you'd be there), I'm not sure what other need I'd have for him. Last season for the Giants, McQ played in 10 games recording 6 tackles (4 solo!) and returned a handful of kicks and punts. Sigh.....Jason Craft.....
- Deltha O'Neal - New England Patriots - 5'11" 194 - O'Neal lost his job early in the season and never really did anything to keep it or get it back. He's also not young (31 years old) and has definitely seen his best days. Something about him reminds me of when the Rams signed Jason Sehorn. I'm not sure why, but i figure if they did sign him, it wouldn't end well at all. Now the Rams could definitely use someone with O'Neal's experience and knowledge, but they also nee someone they can put out there almost every play (basically a number 2 CB) and O'Neal is not that someone anymore.
- David Barrett - New York Jets - 5'10" 195 - Barrett is serviceable at best but was getting paid way too much cash in New York ($3.71M) which is what got him cut. He's also 31 years old. Hold on.......I'm looking for Jason Craft's phone number.
- Dre' Bly - Denver Broncos - 5'10" 185 - Bly's another guy who underperformed (although he's better than Barrett) and was getting paid a lot of money so he was shown the door by the Broncos. He's also 32 years old (kinda hard to believe) and will struggle finding a starting gig this year.
- Terry Cousin - Cleveland Browns - 5'9" 185 - Was pretty much over-matched much of last season and has been shown the door. He's old (33) but so is Jason Craft.......but I'd rather have Jason Craft...
- Pacman Jones - Dallas Cowboys - 5'10" 185 - I decided to put Pacman on this list for a laugh and then I ran across this gem. Click THIS link and watch it rain....it's totally worth it.
- Ken Lucas - Carolina Panthers - 6'0" 205 - Lucas (30) probably has a market. Honestly, he's the best on the market since being released yesterday. There was talk of a trade for Lucas but he apparently nixed a trade to the Lions so the Panthers just released him (the move saved Carolina $2.4M). Needless to say, Lucas is a guy the Rams could definitely use but is probably going to sign a contract worth more than he's worth since there isn't much competition for him that is available. He might not make what he was making with the Panthers (and what he would have made with the Lions had he been traded) but he'll still probably get paid more than the Rams would prefer to spend on a guy who isn't part of their long-term plans.
- Chris McAlister - Baltimore Ravens - 6'1" 206 - McAlister used to really be something playing in that Ravens defense but he had some sort of injury last year to his knee and it's been kept fairly hush hush about what exactly the surgery entailed. He says he'll be cleared medically in May (his surgery was in November) so that's like a 7 month recovery period leading some to believe he might have had some reconstruction going on and might have trouble passing a physical.
So. What does everyone think of Jason Craft?
Actually, Ken Lucas is probably a better option and someone might be able to make an argument for Dre' Bly, but Lucas is probably going to be priced out of where the Rams would like to be and if it came down between Bly and Craft, I'd rather have Craft. We're familiar with him and he seemed to enjoy playing for the Rams last year (well, his performance sort of indicates he did) so he might be interested in being part of the rebuilding even though he might not be around once the re-build is completed.
Okay, so even if we sign Craft the job still isn't complete. This team needs an influx of young corners it can develop over the next couple of years. The guys we've drafted the last couple of seasons have provided absolutely nothing but headaches (except for Bartell) so the cupboard is bare and needs a re-stocking. With that being said, let's take a look at the draft.
(Remember to click the player's name to read what Mocking Dan has to say)
- Vontae Davis - Illinois - 6'0" 203 - Man would I like to have Vontae Davis on the Rams. He's big and a ball hawk. Some think he lacks the ability to work hard but he's got everything else. He's fast, big, and physical. Unfortunately he's not in the Rams plans. He's not the 2nd overall pick and he'll never last long enough to pick in the 2nd round.
- Malcolm Jenkins - Ohio State - 6'1" 201 - Many think Jenkins is actually better than Davis, but a poor showing at the combine which exposed his poor hips causing Deion Sanders to say "He's killing himself", has caused him to slip behind Davis who wowed in the drills. Let's be honest here. So he's dropping 4 or 5 spots in the draft and that's gonna cost him a chunk of change, but it's hardly what Andre Smith did to himself.....that, I would call "killing himself". But both guys are going to get their paper so I'm not too worried about their financial futures. Anyway, he's still a damn good corner, just (again) not one that's going to fall into a spot where the Rams could realistically draft him.
- Darius Butler - Connecticut - 5'10" 183 - Butler is probably the first Cornerback in the draft the Rams can think about picking, but there's a pretty good chance he could go as high as the middle of the first round. There's also speculation he won't make it past the 26th pick (Dolphins at 25 and Ravens at 26). Butler's a solid cornerback who has confidence and a little attitude. He's not going to be the fastest guy playing corner, but he'll make up for it with technique and pure desire.
- D.J. Moore - Vanderbilt - 5'9" 182 - Moore had too setbacks at the combine which might set him back a little in the draft. First, he measured at 5'9" (barely) and then ran a 4.56 40-yard. He's still a great ballhawk who picked off 12 passes in his last two seasons as a Commodore even though no one hardly threw the ball in his direction.
- Alphonso Smith - Wake Forest - 5'9" 193 - While once again not having the height of a number 1 cornerback, Smith makes up for it in swagger (I really hate that term, but I felt compelled to use it for some reason) and pure playmaking ability. He picked off 8 passes last season (21 in his career) for the Deacons and actually talks a better game than he plays. Smith also spent time as a returner so he has those skills which are something the Rams need to consider. Pure athlete who has great quickness, agility, and instincts.
- Sean Smith - Utah - 6'4" 214 - Smith is huge. So, huge in fact that some feel he's better suited to play Safety in the NFL, but no one's really seen any evidence that says he can't play Corner. He's strong, fast, and physical and should be available when the Rams pick in the 2nd round. His biggest negative is that he is extremely raw as a defensive player having started his career as a Wide Receiver. Smith would be a great addition to a Rams secondary who's going to be facing Arizona and Seattle (and their receivers) four times per season.
Jairus Byrd - Oregon - 6'0" 208 - Byrd has great size, durability, and is great in the physical game. He lacks in overall speed and will get beat by more talented receivers. Is a bit of a ballhawk who recorded 17 interceptions in his career which is one short of the Oregon all-time record.
- Mike Mickens - Cincinnati - 5'11" 182 - After Sean Smith, there might be a bit of a drop-off in regards to cornerbacks but that's fine since it fits more into the Rams draft position this way. Mickens has a couple of things going against him. First, he had knee surgery late last season and ended up having to pull out of the Senior Bowl when that injury flared up on him. Second, he's a little undersized (weight-wise) and would need to put on probably 10 pounds to be ideal. Finally, he's not overly fast and the knee injury could effect that even more. He is agile and quick, but the Rams are going to have to do their homework on him if they consider him a legitimate option with their 3rd pick.
- Captain Munnerlyn - South Carolina - 5'9" 185 - Munnerlyn is small but is extremely fast and is considered a pure cover corner. He was rarely thrown at last season and if he wasn't foregoing his senior season (apparently he's declaring to help his ailing mother) he would have been considered a top Cornerback in next year's draft. There is speculation that he wasn't playing hard last season, but that could have been something that resulted from his mother's health. One positive about him (other than his cover abiltiy and his speed and quickness) is he's not going to turn 21 until April 10.
Keenan Lewis - Oregon State - 6'1" 197 - Great size and great track record (4 year starter at Oregon State) but after that his attributes start to slip. He's really not considered to be a very good tackler and he's not a great cover man either. He's durable. Might be better suited to play Safety at the next level.
- Mark Parson - Ohio - 5'10" 192 - Parson is actually a very good corner who has "shut down" ability. He suffered a bit by playing at Ohio where no one knew who he really was except for opposing MAC quarterbacks who rarely threw the ball in his direction. Parson had a great Senior Bowl workout where he was considered one of the best defenders on the field excelling in his backpedal, speed, and hands. This is a guy the Rams could possibly target in the 4th round and feel like they have gotten great value.
- Coye Francies - San Jose State - 6'1" 185 - Francies has great height but is a little slight in build. He also has a bit of a checkered past stemming from getting kicked out of Oregon State after being charged with possession of a loaded firearm (charges were dismissed). He played well at San Jose State and impressed at the East-West Shrine Game. Is a good open field tackler and has great instincts and catch-up speed but may be more of a project than the Rams want to take on considering the depth of the their Cornerback unit and the pressance of Tye Hill, Jonathan Wade, and Justin King who are all (still) projects. Why would they bring in another project?
- Asher Allen - Georgia - 5'10" 198 - Allen might be undervalued right now after having an unspectacullar 2008 season (one in which he played with a broken hand) and a not-so-impressive 40 time at the combine (4.48) which he says is the slowest 40 time of his life. Allen has a lot of upside and should be a solid corner in the NFL with greater things a being a possibility.
I'm going to cut the list off here since we're getting into the territory of guys who might have strengths but they also have weaknesses to a point that makes them either future depth guys or higher-risk projects.
Overall, I like the way the position maps out because (after the 1st round) it looks liker there are good options available for the Rams to select a cornerback in rounds 2-4 and not feel like they reached for anyone. I guess to make a prediction on what will happen you have to consider a few things. First, are the Rams going to add a free agent CB? I think they have to. They're just too thin and too inexperienced at the position to think the guys they have on the roster with someone added from the draft is going to be anything but trouble. In my Wide Receiver edition of BBD, I joked that with the way our Receiver corps stood, we'd be eaten alive by pretty much any NFL defensive backfield. Well, our receivers might have some success against our corners but thank goodness for O.J. Atogwe and James Bulter for those two are going to have a major impact on the success of our D-Backfield.
As you might have noticed, I'm advocating for Jason Craft. Was it obvious? Yeah, I know he's not the greatest cornerback, but I think when you look at what's available (and yes I know Ken Lucas is available) I don't see anything better than Craft at the price we could sign him. Plus, Craft is a known commodity. Granted, he might not be known to Spagnuolo or Flajole, but he's known to Billy Devaney and I put a lot of stock into that.
After signing Craft, I'd look to add a cornerback in probably the 4th round. I guess I could justify the 3rd round but that would have to be determined on what the team has added before the draft and what the plan is for 2010. I think there might be a chance the team doesn't add a MLB at all and might try to make-do for a season with what they already have, and then shoot for the moon next year in either the draft or free agency. It's hard to tell. But I do consider Cornerback to be more of a need right now than Middle Linebacker.
So, all things considered, I think I'd look squarely at Captain Munnerlyn in the 4th while keeping my fingers crossed for Sean Smith in the 3rd. I would think if Smith is available when the Rams pick in the 3rd, they'd be hard pressed to pass him up. If he's not, then you almost have to add the best corner back on the board with your 4th pick. Any lower and you're really not adding someone who will be able to contribute right away. Not that Munnerlyn is a lock to start on opening day, but I think he has a chance to find the field and have some sort of impact.
Another guy I'd like to consider with the 4th pick is Mark Parson. In all honesty, I probably like him more than Munnerlyn, but I'm not sure where he's going to fall in the draft. He's probably 2nd round talent that has a chance to fall to the 4th.
So, there you have my take on the Rams Cornerback situation. It's thin, and the team must make an effort to shore it up and build for the future in an off season that makes that extremely difficult.
Remember, this post is not going to be found in the FanPost section, so keep "rec-ing" in which I think will get it into the "Recommended" section. I think this is a topic that needs to be discussed since I don't think many people here are recognizing the state our Cornerback unit is in.