HERTFORD ENGLAND - OCTOBER 27: Ray McDonald of San Francisco 49ers looks on in a training session at The Grove Hotel on October 27 2010 in Hertford England. The San Francisco 49ers will meet the Denver Broncos in the NFL International Series regular-season match at Wembley Stadium on October 31. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Though the St. Louis Rams are widely expected to pursue Giants free agent DT Barry Cofield, they will most likely need to consider a backup plan...or two. Not only will the market be competitive, recent developments in the settlement talks between players and owners could throw a kink in free agent plans.
Another player who might be a fit for the Rams needs in the middle of the defensive line is San Francisco DE Ray McDonald. He recently told the press that he wants to start, something he hasn't been done with the 49ers in some time. McDonald can slide inside as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense, and would seem to be an upgrade over Gary Gibson for the Rams, giving them an inside presence who can penetrate.
Of course, McDonald's situation depends on several factors in SF, mostly what happens with NT Aubrayo Franklin, who could be a high profile free agent. If he leaves, DE Isaac Sopoaga would replace him, giving McDonald a good chance of starting again. SF has several high profile free agents to think about in addition to Franklin, players like Dashon Goldston, Takeo Spikes and Manny Lawson, who could be replaced by first-round pick Aldon Smith. That's a big chunk of their defense. They also have to think about Alex Smith.
I think Cofield's a better fit in St. Louis, given the connections to this defense.
The other answer might be standing pat. I know, I know, but it all depends on how the coaches view the current roster at DT. Last year's starter next to Fred Robbins was Gary Gibson, a free agent. They need someone better versus the run and someone to get penetration on passing downs wouldn't be bad either. What kind of leap youngsters like Jermelle Cudjo (a surprising, but limited contributor from the ranks of URFAs last year) and Darrell Scott (started well, disappointed as weeks went by) take this year.
It seems like even if they do re-sign Gibson, they'll need to add a DT for depth. Eagles DT Mike Patterson is one option to keep an eye on, given the obvious connection. He's a good run defender. Seattle's Brandon Mebane is another potential free agent. Former Broncos DL Justin Bannan could be a capable veteran role player too.