The St. Louis Rams search for a running back to pair with and back up Steven Jackson is one of their more important needs to fill this offseason. After bypassing on some big names in the 2011 NFL Draft, that leaves free agency as Billy Devaney's last best option for addressing that need. How exactly the Rams plan to fill that roster spot remains to be seen.
Darren Sproles was the name mentioned most often in connection with the Rams, even before the lockout ended. Sproles had a plane ticket to visit St. Louis last year, before the Chargers used the franchise tag to keep him. That hasn't necessarily changed; today there was a report that Devaney led the pack for Sproles.
There was a brief flirtation with Reggie Bush, who ended up going to Miami in a trade. Bush got a restructured contract worth $10 million over two years.
Now comes word from ESPN's Mike Sando that the Rams prefer more of a do-it-all type of back, a potential replacement for Steven Jackson, should the franchise's all-time leading rusher miss any time with injury issues. Those backs are Jason Snelling, recently of the Falcons who drafted him when Billy Devaney was in the personnel department there, and Jerome Harrison, who the Eagles will not bring back for 2011.
Adding a back like that would be an excellent idea for the Rams. Not just for the reasons stated above, but because Jackson is himself a pretty versatile player, a running back who can be moved out wide and into the slot. The Rams offense last year didn't do much of that, but fans will remember the 2006 season when Jackson blew by defenses on the outside. If heady young QB Sam Bradford is truly allowed to flourish, then he can move his ultimate chess piece in and out of the backfield between the huddle and the snap, really forcing defenses into a state of confusion.