We've parsed, ad nauseum, the trade talk involving Chargers WR Vincent Jackson. No need to rehash that. However, with the NFL trade deadline coming up on Tuesday, Oct. 19, it is worth taking a look at Rams' GM Billy Devaney's horse trading history and look to see where the Rams might conduct some business.
Last year, the Rams surprised everyone with a deadline deal that sent OLB Will Witherspoon to Philadelphia in exchange for WR Brandon Gibson and a fifth round pick (used for the since departed DE Hall Davis). Few saw the move coming, especially the decision to swap an established vet like Witherspoon (you could still argue the Rams are hurting for help at OLB, though it is better than last year, post-Spoon).
Below the jump: Devaney's trading patterns, possible trade chips and the requisite "will they or won't they?"
Devaney has made a fair amount of trades since taking the reigns as the Rams GM: Tye Hill, Adam Carriker, Alex Barron, Witherspoon. Notice a pattern? Each of those players were holdovers from the old regime, that still had some trade value. Those were, in part, housecleaning moves, designed to get the Rams some value in the process of reviving the locker room culture and erasing memories of the past.
There aren't really any moves like that left to make. The handful of players carried over from the bad old days are the handful of successful draft picks from that period, guys like Ron Bartell, Chris Long and Oshiomogho Atogwe. Those probably aren't guys the Rams would be trading given their value this season and beyond.
Draft picks would be the most likely trade chip for the Rams. Trading those represents an opportunity cost, something we've discussed many times before in the Vincent Jackson talks.
Ultimately, trade decisions for the Rams hinge on just how competitive they want to be this year and in the years beyond. Hanging on to draft picks, especially early round picks, is important for the future. However, the Rams are in a slightly different place this year than they have been in the last three: the team can compete in this division.
If the Rams want to strike a balance, albeit one that would clearly lean toward NOT competing for the division this year, they might think about trading players currently on the roster. They've committed to Bartell for the long term, ditto Chris Long - and these are just the big names that would have some notable trade value - so they're off the table.
The most likely candidate, from the armchair fan/GM point of view, is Atogwe. You remember all the back and forth with Atogwe during the offseason, when Atogwe didn't get much interest as a RFA even with teams not having to surrender draft picks to sign him away from St. Louis. He finally reached a new contract with the Rams, one that paid him his guaranteed money up front and includes something of a poison pill for 2011 in the form of an $8 million roster bonus. A team interested in Atogwe could easily work out a new deal, which is more likely than just renting his services for the year.
Such a move would hurt their secondary since they lack a true FS to take his place. Devaney and the coaching staff would have to seriously weigh the weakening of the secondary versus the strengthening of another area. It's hard to say what kind of return Atogwe would fetch. Given the lack of interest in him during the offseason, a second round pick, the price of top shelf receiving help, is unlikely. Of course, teams could be desperate with the season underway (Dallas? Houston? Washington?) and reshape the market. Keep an eye on the games this weekend.
As for the "will they or won't they?" I wouldn't be surprised to see Devaney make a move, but probably not the big ticket type of trade that grabs national attention.
So what are the Rams needs...besides wide receiver?
Defensive line - Injuries have made the Rams shuffle the DT spots, but they might be more interested in finding some help at DE. An improved defensive front could make up for shortcomings elsewhere on the roster.
Outside Linebacker - This is a much better position for the Rams than it was last year, but the defensive struggles against slot receivers and tight ends getting between the coverage as well as successful runs on the outside could have the Rams looking for spare parts. Don't underestimate a player's ability to contribute on special teams as a motivating factor as well.
Offensive line - Good luck finding someone. But this unit has underperformed, especially in the run blocking, and you can never have too many linemen.
Backup running back - This seems less and less likely. Nevertheless, the right player could add another dimension to the offense.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Rams do make a move, just not a surprising one.