I mentioned earlier today that NFL teams can begin releasing players, and it looks like we have one of the first high profile casualties, Atlanta Falcons S Erik Coleman. The former starter, who lost his starting job in 2010, is due a salary of $2.5 million, which is a lot of money for a guy who doesn't start. Expensive contracts are one reason that teams will release players right now, and there's a very similar situation shaping up for the St. Louis Rams.
Safety James Butler started for the Rams in 2009, when they signed the free agent to a 4-year, $14 million contract. Butler's base salary jumps from $1.925 million last year to $3 million in 2011. Butler lost his starting job in training camp to Craig Dahl, who started all but one game last year. It stands to reason that Butler will be a roster casualty this year based on the hefty chuck of money due to him.
The Rams could really stand to add a strong safety who is a little better in coverage, unless they feel like Dahl can still improve that area of his game. Drafting a safety would seem to be a very likely route, bringing in a prospect to play behind Dahl and Oshiomogho Atogwe, preferably a player who could slot into either role. Darian Stewart saw more snaps than Butler late in the season too.
Speaking of Atogwe, his contract situation is the one to watch. He's due an $8 million roster bonus on Feb. 21 along with $3.5 million in base salary this season. It's not as though we haven't talked about this before, and there hasn't been any other news since he hinted that he'd be willing to restructure his contract to stay with an up and coming Rams team.