Well, with the Super Bowl behind us, I think it's never too early to get a head start on the off-season. I'm going to retain the same optimism I am with Pujols and his future contract - whether it be with or without the Cards - as I am with the NFL avoiding a lockout. The season is gonna happen until it doesn't. Understand?
The first step Billy Devaney has is looking at his current roster and deciding what he needs and what he doesn't need. To do that, he needs to look at each individual position and determine whether that position is filled 1) long-term 2) short-term or nobody's favorite 3) neither.
One category that I did not list that is important is depth. You could have your long-term filled, however, if he doesn't have a semi-adequate backup then there are serious problems if and when your starter gets injured (and this being the NFL, it's almost inevitable). Here's the positions with their stated needs and their importance.
Well this is a tough one... however, it still has its issues. Sam Bradford is going to be great and is the long-term starter for at least six more years so that is NOT the issue of course. The issue is who plays if he gets hurt. Hopefully not A.J. Feeley or Thaddeus Lewis. Feeley is terrible, old, and hasn't played an actual game in a few years. Lewis is an ideal #3 QB in my opinion, but I don't want to rely on him if Bradford is hurt.
Steven Jackson is more than a good starting running back in the NFL right now, but he is on the decline right now. His YPC dropped from 4.4 to 3.8, his yards dropped by nearly 200, and he had 320+ carries for the second straight year. He has now six straight years with at least 235 carries with three of them over 320. He will be turning 28 next year. He is not quite done, but he is close enough to worry. He is the very definition of a short-term starter right now. The Rams need to release all of their running backs (except Jackson) and start from scratch. I think they need to draft a running back between Rounds 2-4 and sign a backup off free agency. I am just tired of watching Darby and Co. do nothing and think they have already proven they are worthless.
Problem: No Replacement; Depth
Solution: Draft RB on Day 2; Sign Backup or FA (Think Brian Westbrook with the 49ers)
The Rams lack a #1 receiver and or anything resembling one. The receiver on their team with the most potential has had five knee surgeries. The leading receiver in yards had just 8.1 YPC, quite literally last among qualified receivers. Another is the second worst receiver in the league according to DYAR (via Football Outsiders). The receiver who was probably, statistically the best, improved his catch rate by 9%... and it's still below average. The two missing receivers missed all but two games the whole year. Not exactly an inspiring group to say the least. The problem of course is that - in my opinion - the five receivers I just mentioned all have a case that they are #2 or #3 receivers. So if they don't get a #1, they have the same exact issues as they did last year just with more of them.
Problem: #1 receiver; a reliable receiver
Solution: Draft a receiver in the 1st round or sign a matter-of-fact #1 in free agency.
They are in a similar position as wide receiver, filled with incompetence, injuries, potential, and too many players to keep. Illinois Mike is the potential and injuries together as he played extremely good in his 10 snaps. Fells has proven time and again that he is not starter material. Bajema is purely depth who is good at blocking and serviceable at catching. Onobun is a literal non-factor in my mind as I don't see him doing anything substantial in the NFL. This position is probably a pick one only if it is the best player available ala Kyle Rudolph. I can't quite put my finger on this position, but 2011 should have some answers.
Problem: No clear starter-caliber player
Solution: Try to find a starting-caliber TE for below what they are worth (via BPA or FA)
Whether or not Jason Smith is good enough to be a starter, his contract pretty much obligates us to start him somewhere regardless. Besides, he's at least a starting-caliber tackle with the potential to be so much more. On the left side Rodger Saffold had an extremely promising rookie season. Goldberg is a good back-up tackle. I guess they need a backup, but this position is of low-interest in the off-season.
Solution: Sign backups
Well remember when I said Steven Jackson is clearly declining. These guys didn't help matters much. In fact, they probably are the sole cause. Jacob Bell bewilders me as to how he convinced our FO that he deserved his contract that he got. Goldberg is out of position and it's hard to blame someone for following coaching orders. Greco appeared to be better than both in his limited time, but I'm not sure he would have made the position good or even average. Being better than Bell and Goldberg is like being better than the Lions the last few years. Not an accomplishment or a bar you want to set for yourself.
Solution: Sign a short-term starter from free agency and draft a long-term starter in the draft
I'm not going to waste my time here. Jason Brown is in the middle of a five year contract and he is at least average who looks worse with two movable objects on his side. He - like Jason Smith - is here for the long-term for better or worse.
Solution: Do nothing
This position should be divided into two, but I don't want too much words space although it appears I have already failed on that note. We have one long-term starter in Chris Long who is turning into an elite player and possible Pro Bowl player for years to come. James Hall is a short-term starter who is getting older and odds are he will get worse as he ages. They have a good young pass rusher in George Selvie and a little potential in Eugene Sims. Again odds are neither of those players become a starter so it would be smart to get an eventual replacement.
Problem: No realistic replacement for Hall
Solution: Find a replacement for Hall in the draft
Fred Robbins leads this group and there might not be a better guy to lead a group however after him there isn't much to look at. Jermelle Cudjo, Clifton Ryan, and Darell Scott are all young and decent to good backups but I feel like they aren't starting material because if they were good enough to be starters they would be starters right now. Gary Gibson isn't very good and he started the majority of the games. They need someone next to Robbins to make an impact.
Problem: Past Robbins, who is older, they have no starting caliber players to step up
Solution: Sign a veteran to start opposite Robbins (a signing like Robbins for less years) and draft a potential replacement
This will get the status neither because I don't see a capable, reliable starter in this bunch. Na'il Diggs, Chris Chamberlain, David Vobora, Bryan Kehl. None of them are starting material or even close to acceptable and nothing we should settle for. I would argue that at least one of those positions needs to have a good starter not even average. The only reason to accept an average starter is because the player is young and potential-filled. None of the players are mentioned are that.
Problem: Backup players with no potential to start are starting
Solution: Find at least one OLB who can start and draft at least one OLB, preferrably in Rounds 1-3.
Short and sweet here. James Lauranitis seemingly improved mightily according to most experts and is on the brink of Pro Bowl material. We have something special here and we can ignore this position for the next few years.
Solution: Get an OLB
Ron Bartell is at worst a good #2 CB and at best an acceptable #1 CB. Either way, the road to getting a #1 CB is signing an expensive free agent or drafting one in the first round, neither of which we can afford to do in my opinion with all of the other problems the team has. Fletcher is an amazing cornerback to have with his potential and age. I think he is already a #2 with the potential to be a #1. King and Murphy are questionably for depth so finding an adequate #3 CB would be nice because I don't want Kevin Dockery on this team anymore
Status: Long-term (Every CB is under 30)
Problem: Not clear #1 CB; depth
Solution: Find depth in draft; create #1 CB out of thin air
The anyalsis of this position completely relies on what you think of Craig Dahl and James Butler. The consensus is that Butler belongs behind Dahl so let's move on to Dahl. Some people think Dahl is good enough as a starter and some people think he is only a backup with severe coverage issues. Personally, I think that the Rams can afford to have a 25-year-old hard-hitting strong safety - who plays next to an elite FS - when they have bigger problems at RB, OG, DL, OLB, and CB (in no particular order). Depth is not an issue here, but the starters might be... or not. This position is much like tight end.
Problem: No clear starter
Solution: I'd say let Dahl play one more year while improving other positions and then looking at him and deciding if he's good enough; I didn't realize he was this young
This all depends on what the Rams plan to do with Atogwe and his high-priced 2011, but I'll assume they don't release him because there really is no better option. After this year, he becomes cheap again so I'll take the risk. At worst, he's only average and exactly worth his price in the next few years.
Problem: Atogwe's status with team unclear
Solution: Keep Atogwe for next year and beyond
Kicker and Punter
Josh Brown and Donnie Jones... enough said. This facet is one of the team's strengths (I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or be happy about this - at the least they aren't clearly the best like last year which is a good sign)
Lastly, I think we should find a replacement for Danny Amendola on kick returns. He's filled in admirably and the best we have right now, but he's below average compared to the rest of the league. He's actually good on punt returns so I'd keep him there, but signing or drafting somebody who is good at returning kicks is not a bad idea and they aren't very hard find although the Rams seem to have issues finding one.
On a final note, I will list where I think the positional needs should rank from what we need most to what we need least with a 1 to 10 rating of how important it is to fill it with 10 being absolutely must to 1 being ignore it.
1. OLB (10)
2. OG (10)
3. #1 WR (7.5)
4. DT (7)
5. OLB #2 (6)
6. OG #2 (6)
7. DE (5.5)
8. RB (5.5)
9. CB (5)
10. SS (4)
11. QB (3.5) [Note: Backup!]
By the way, I have no explanation for the random weird font and why it changes. Just go with it at least it's readable.